Evacuation of remaining civilians in danger as Iran-backed militia attacks convoy
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULDec 17, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Dec 17, 2016 12:00 am
The evacuation of at least 80,000 people from eastern parts of Aleppo was suspended by the Assad regime early Friday after the pro-Assad militia, backed by Iran, stopped a convoy and detained more than 800 civilians willing to go to opposition-controlled areas. According to sources on the ground in Aleppo, pro-Assad forces opened fire on a convoy of buses carrying an estimated 800 civilians, all residents of Aleppo. The attack left at least 14 civilians dead. According to reports, the convoy returned to Aleppo. Forces loyal to the regime forced the vehicles to stop in the southwest Aleppo suburb of Ramouseh, a district held by government forces, where the evacuees were held hostage, according to correspondents' reports. Crowds of regime supporters then protested next to the convoy to demand that Syrian opposition forces lift an ongoing siege of the pro-regime Shiite villages of Fua and Kefraya, both of which are located in Idlib province. Members of the crowd reportedly demanded the release of relatives allegedly trapped in the two villages.
Under siege by armed opposition groups for more than a-year-and-a-half, the cities of Fua and Kefraya currently host fighters from both Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Assad regime has been resupplying the two villages by air, while holding 18 areas across war-torn Syria under siege. Under the terms of an agreement reached between the Assad regime and Syrian opposition groups, civilians trapped in eastern Aleppo were to be allowed to evacuate war-torn areas to the opposition-held city of Idlib.
A spokesman for the Syrian rebels said that government forces opened fire on a road leading out of eastern Aleppo, a designated evacuation route, resulting in the suspension of the evacuation process. However, Syrian state TV blamed opposition fighters for the move, saying that rebels opened fire on the convoy, as it was evacuating civilians from eastern Aleppo. The first convoy of evacuees carrying sick and injured war victims left eastern Aleppo early Thursday morning but was attacked by militia groups backed by Iran and forces loyal to the Assad regime. According to local reports, four people were killed and several were injured when Iran-backed Shiite militias opened fire on the convoy.
The convoy was carrying at least 200 injured victims - 50 of them in critical condition - according to an Anadolu Agency (AA) reporter at the scene of the attack. After the violation of the ceasefire, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif twice over the phone, resulting in the movement of the first batch of wounded victims from eastern Aleppo to opposition-controlled areas. Syria has remained locked in a devastating civil war since early 2011 when the regime cracked down quite ferociously on pro-democracy protesters in demonstrations that had erupted as a result of the Arab Spring uprisings. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the conflict, and millions more have been displaced.