Cease-Fire Underway In Aleppo

Cease-Fire Underway In Aleppo

December 14, 20167:05 AM ET

Syrian pro-government forces walk in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on Tuesday, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria’s rebellion in more than five years of civil war.

Updated at 8:00 p.m. ET A cease-fire in besieged eastern Aleppo appears to be going forward, paving the way for people trapped there to evacuate.It’s difficult to confirm exactly how many civilians remain in the small slice of Aleppo still controlled by rebel groups, but estimates put the number in the tens of thousands. NPR’s Alison Meuse reports an opposition activist in the city says the bombing has stopped.The cease-fire comes a day after an earlier deal fell apart. On Tuesday, Turkey and Russia negotiated what was essentially a surrender by rebel groups. Under the agreement, civilians were supposed to be evacuated to safety.

But that deal collapsed on Wednesday morning. “So far nobody has been evacuated,” The New York Times reporter Anne Barnard told NPR Wednesday morning. “The first convoy that attempted to leave was stopped by the Iranian-backed Shiite militias that have been helping the Syrian government on the ground. It seems that Iran and the Syrian government were not pleased that Turkey and Russia struck a deal without them.”

Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo toward the government-held side on Tuesday, during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase. In addition to the evacuations being halted, warfare and shelling had also resumed in the region, The Associated Press reported: “Syrian activists say fighter jets have resumed bombing raids over remaining rebel areas in eastern Aleppo, further imperiling a cease-fire deal for the city. “Media activist Mahmoud Raslan says the aircraft bombed the rebel Ansari district in the city on Wednesday. “He says that the aircraft ‘began to strike as if there’s no such thing as a ‘cease-fire’ or ‘evacuation of civilians.’ “Raslan says the bombing is a de facto announcement that ‘they are going to kill us all.’ ” There are conflicting accounts of who first violated the cease-fire on Wednesday, the BBC’s Thomas Morgan says.

“Activists and pro-opposition media say regime-backed militia restarted the shelling of rebel areas this morning,” he reports. “However, Russia’s Defense Ministry says the fighting was initiated by the rebels, who used the cease-fire as an opportunity to regroup.”

Those inside eastern Aleppo have described horrific bloodshed over the past few days. People told NPR there’s no food, no fuel and no medical care available, and that the streets are filled with carnage. Various U.N. agencies have received reports of indiscriminate killing and children coming under fire.

The Two-Way

As East Aleppo Falls, Accounts Of Carnage — Then A Cease-FireThe White Helmets, a volunteer civil defense organization, says it can no longer provide estimates of the body count in eastern Aleppo.Abdulkafi Alhamdo, an opposition activist and English teacher who is still in besieged eastern Aleppo with his wife and young daughter, spoke with Alison about life in the city over the past few days.

These buses — meant to evacuate civilians leaving from rebel-held areas of Aleppo — sit empty and waiting on Wednesday. Thousands of cold and hungry civilians crowded the streets of Aleppo uncertain of their future after their planned evacuation from the last rebel pocket of the city was delayed.”It was hell,” he said. “The killing — you can just see bodies on the streets, you can hear their voices crying just to find someone to help.

“They gave us two choices only — leave or die,” he said. “You leave your friends, you leave your house, you leave your history.”

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