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:
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 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.
HalabToday, a pro-opposition television channel, reported the return of the convoy to the besieged east:
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.
— 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is a very real risk that a massacre of unprecedented scale may take place in the coming hours.
— Pierre Vaux
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.