Russia Claims All Women And Children Evacuated From Eastern Aleppo Despite Reports Of Thousands Remaining Trapped

December 16, 2016
The evacuation convoy that was halted and turned back this morning by regime-allied forces. Photo via @danriversitv

The previous post in our Putin in Syria column can be found here.

What Happened In Aleppo Today?

Over the course of this evening, more evidence has emerged of what happened earlier today when regime-allied forces stopped the evacuation of civilians from eastern Aleppo.

As we reported earlier, a convoy carrying some 900 people was unexpectedly stopped by regime-allied fighters – Hezbollah, according to some sources, and sent back into the besieged east of the city. 

Regime-allied forces then barricaded the road out with rubble: 

Some journalists among the would-be evacuees reported that the fighters had detained them and executed four men before sending them back east.  
However the BBC’s Riam Dalati reported that a source of his in Aleppo had denied that evacuees were killed or robbed:
Tonight Asaad Hanna, a political officer in the Free Syrian Army, posted a photo purportedly taken at the checkpoint where the convoy was stopped:

The image appears to be new and looks authentic.

Meanwhile segments of video have been circulating showing crowds running in panic from the evacuation area, followed by the sound of gunfire, though it is uncertain from which side.

The following clip has been cut from the same source footage, this time, the video continues for longer, recording gunfire:
A different video records a very similar scene:
The images here correspond with video testimony from teacher and activist Abulkafi Alhamdo:

@Mr.Alhamdo @Mr_Alhamdo

@Mr.Alhamdo (@Mr_Alhamdo) on Periscope. Teacher, Activist and a reporter from inside Aleppo. I will be with you online to speak about what is going having interviews with others inside Aleppo.

View full page →

Dec 16, 2016 23:13 (GMT)

In addition, a team from Britain’s ITV News reported hearing mortar fire in the area this afternoon:
— Pierre Vaux
Would-Be Evacuees Report Regime Executed 4 People Before Sending Convoy Back; Russia Denies Anything Happened

The Russian military claims that no convoys of evacuees from eastern Aleppo were stopped or turned back today, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Russia’s Interfax news agency received a statement from the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Sides in Syria this afternoon, saying:

“Reports alleging that one of the convoys carrying 950 militants and their families was turned back to the city absolutely do not correspond with reality.”

The Center, a potemkin peace effort by the Russian Ministry of Defense, claimed that all those wishing to leave eastern Aleppo had now been evacuated.

Both these statements are false.

As we reported earlier this morning, Britain’s ITV News documented the convoy stopped on the highway out of Aleppo before it was turned back.

Regime-allied fighters then blocked the road with rubble:

HalabToday, a pro-opposition television channel, reported the return of the convoy to the besieged east:

Even Syrian state television reported that the convoy had been sent back, supposedly because rebel fighters had tried to take heavy weaponry out with them:

In addition, Iran’s state-owned also reported that regime-allied Hezbollah fighters had blocked the road.

But even more disturbing details are now emerging.

Syrian journalist Zouhir al-Shimale, a reliable source, was one of those who tried to leave aboard the convoy this morning.

In the last hour, he has reported that he and his fellow passengers had been detained and robbed by regime-allied forces before being sent back. Four people were executed.
Both al-Shimale and another Syrian journalist, Hadi al-Abdallah, report that several would-be evacuees remain in detention:

— Pierre Vaux


Syrian activist Abdulkafi Alhamdo has reported in detail on the evacuation attempt this morning. He has written a statement and recorded a video:

@Mr.Alhamdo @Mr_Alhamdo

@Mr.Alhamdo (@Mr_Alhamdo) on Periscope. Teacher, Activist and a reporter from inside Aleppo. I will be with you online to speak about what is going having interviews with others inside Aleppo.

View full page →

Dec 16, 2016 16:45 (GMT)

About 20 vehicles set from Aleppo city with the Red Crescent and the Cross Crescent cars. After the passed the Russian check point, they were surprised with a Hezbullah’s checkpoint. They stopped them for 15 minutes then tanks and soldiers vehicles surrounded the the vehicles. They started firing with 23 mm machine gun and expelled the Red Crescent and the Cross Crescent cars. Later, Hezbullah’s militias took off all the men, checked them and took their belongings. (phones, guns,etc). One of the fighters, who went out with his pregnant wife, resisted the militias. They immediately killed him and killed few others (the number might be 5)> then they took his wife to the regime areas, after she started bleeding. The militias arrested many other people and took the killed ones as well. Then they took some of the civil defense and ambulance cars and returned the rest to the besieged areas.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Reportedly Agree To Parallel Evacuation From Regime-Held Pocket, Raising Hopes Of Aleppo Deal

There is some news that raises hopes that a deal may be reached allowing the evacuation of eastern Aleppo to resume.

The Guardian‘s Kareem Shaheen reports that Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate, has finally agreed to allow the evacuation of wounded from an encircled, regime-controlled pocket surrounding the villages of Fua and Kefraya.

Shaheen reported earlier this afternoon that the suspension of the evacuation was linked to JFS’ refusal to allow the evacuation from Fua and Kefraya

Set as default press image

Aleppo evacuation suspended as blasts heard at departure point

The evacuation of people from eastern Aleppo has been suspended and a Reuters witness reported hearing at least four blasts at a location from where buses had been leaving the Syrian city. A state-run TV station said rebels had breached an agreement with the government by trying to take prisoners with them during the evacuation.

View full page →

Dec 16, 2016 13:45 (GMT)

Iranian state television reports that regime-allied Hezbollah fighters outside Aleppo claimed responsibility for having blocked the evacuation this morning and erecting barricades in connection with the situation in Fua and Kefraya.

However statements from the Russian military, claiming that all civilians have been evacuated, have yet to be retracted.


— Pierre Vaux
With 1000s Trapped, Evacuation Route Blocked And Comms Cut, Russia Says Regime “Liquidating Pockets Of Resistance”

Russian state media reports that Syrian regime forces are now conducting a “cleanup” of remaining “radical” fighters in eastern Aleppo.

RIA Novosti reports that the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria (TsPP) has said:

“The Syrian army’s operation to liberate the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo controlled by militants has been completed. Syrian government forces are liquidating isolated pockets of radical resistance.”

This appears to confirm reports from within Aleppo that fighting has broken out again.

The TsPP claimed earlier this morning that all women and children had been evacuated – a claim at odds with almost all reports from the city.

Disturbingly, ITV News editor Johnathan Wald reports that regime forces have begun piling up rubble in order to block evacuation routes:
Not only are women and children still present in Aleppo, but the omission of any civilian men in the Russian statement recalls the fact that, earlier this month, a top Russian general claimed that all males over the age of 12 had been recruited into military service by rebel groups.
Furthermore, there are now reports that large swathes of internet and phone communications in the city have gone down:

There is a very real risk that a massacre of unprecedented scale may take place in the coming hours.

— Pierre Vaux

Russia Claims All Women And Children Evacuated From Eastern Aleppo Despite Reports Of Thousands Remaining Trapped

Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports that the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides In Syria (TsPP) has announced that all women and children have now been evacuated from eastern Aleppo.

“All the women and children who were in the neighborhoods controlled by militants have been evacuated.”

This stands at odds with media reports that thousands of civilians remain trapped in the besieged city.

The evacuation effort was halted this morning, with a convoy carrying some 800 people halted and ordered to turn back by regime-allied fighters.

Robert Mardini, the regional director at the Interntional Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) tweeted:
Pro-opposition Aleppo24 News reports that regime forces have demanded the release of 66 of their fellow fighters, captured by Rebels in Aleppo, as a condition for allowing the convoys to resume.
ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff have been ordered out of some areas by regime-allied forces, amid reports that fighting has broken out again.