Civilians set to leave eastern Aleppo, Shia villages

TRT World's Ediz Tiyansan reports from the frontline outside besieged Aleppo, where a fragile ceasefire between regime and rebels is still holding and buses are rolling in to take civilians to safety.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The deal aims at the evacuation of a proportional number of people from each side. Picture: Men react as they stand outside buses evacuating people from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria, December 15, 2016.

Updated Dec 19, 2016

A convoy of buses on Sunday afternoon was set to begin rescuing a thousand civilians trapped in eastern Aleppo, taking them to the rebel stronghold of Idlib. 

The evacuation comes as part of a deal struck between regime and opposition forces that also allowed four hundred Syrians to leave the besieged Shia villages of Foua and Kfarya, according to TRT World's Ediz Tiyansan.

"We are as close as we can get to regime positions," Tiyansan said, as the fragile ceasefire still holds between the sides. "On a regular day, this would practically be a frontline between the regime and the opposition." 

The deal aims for the evacuation of a proportional number of people from each side. The ruins of eastern Aleppo are still home to as many as 50,000 civilians, and there are perhaps 4,000 Syrians in Foua and Kfarya, surrounded by rebel fighters. 

An earlier attempt on Saturday to let civilians leave came to an abrupt halt after gunfire broke out in their path. In the first round, as many as 25,000 people will come out of the eastern section of the Syrian city and another 1,250 will be evacuated from the two villages. 

Over the last week, forces loyal to the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al Assad have laid siege to eastern Aleppo, as opposition forces have held the Shia villages under siege. The transfer underscores the bitter sectarian divisions of the civil war, now entering its sixth year and having claimed almost half a million lives. 

There have been widespread accusations of the targeting of civilians by the regime as it tightens its grasp on the area, where water and electricity have been cut off. In Idlib, also a target of regime attacks and bombardment by Assad's ally Russia, life still goes on and some shops remain open. 

Ediz Tiyansan has this story from the the frontline.