Middle East

UN Security Council backs sending observers to Aleppo

With Russia's support, unanimous vote to monitor evacuations from Syrian city marks rare agreement between world powers.

With Russia's backing, the United Nations Security Council on Monday voted to quickly deploy UN observers to Aleppo to monitor evacuations and report on the fate of civilians who remain in the besieged Syrian city.

The council unanimously adopted the French-drafted resolution that marks the first show of unity in months among world powers grappling with the crisis in Syria.

The resolution calls for UN officials and others to be able to monitor evacuations from eastern Aleppo and the safety of civilians who remain in the Syrian city.

The 15-member council resolution "demands all parties to provide these monitors with safe, immediate and unimpeded access".

Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said: "For the first time in numerous attempts to get unanimity on the situation on Aleppo, all of the 15 UN Security Council members have supported this resolution to send UN monitors in Aleppo."

Russia had vetoed six similar resolutions before this one.

"What happens next is deployment of UN and aid organisation personnel to Aleppo," Hanna said.

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Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, decried the resolution. He said that while Syria does not oppose UN Security Council resolutions that respect international humanitarian law, the resolution was "just another part of the continued propaganda against Syria and its fight against terrorists".

He added that "the last terrorists in some districts of the eastern part of Aleppo are evacuating their strongholds and Aleppo this evening will be clean".

Dozens of buses carrying evacuees including orphaned children from the last rebel-held district of Aleppo travelled to opposition-controlled areas outside the city early on Monday, according to Turkish officials and a monitoring group.

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Turkey said that about 20,000 people have been evacuated from eastern Aleppo so far, as a fragile ceasefire between rebels and government forces was holding.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that the evacuees from the besieged city were bused to an area under opposition control, in an ongoing effort to get people to safety.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an estimated 500 people had been evacuated from two villages besieged by rebels in Idlib province on Monday as part of the deal.

SOHR said 10 buses had left the majority Shia towns of Foua and Kefraya carrying evacuees through rebel-held territory towards Aleppo.

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The evacuation process in Aleppo got off to a shaky start last week, with agreements collapsing and four people reportedly killed by government-allied forces as they attempted to leave eastern Aleppo.

In the latest disruption on Sunday, gunmen attacked buses sent to take people out of Foua and Kefraya and torched them, killing a bus driver, the Syrian Observatory said.

Aleppo had been divided between government and rebel areas in the nearly six-year war, but a major advance by the Syrian army and its allies began in mid-November following months of intense air strikes.

The offensive forced the opposition fighters out of most of their strongholds within weeks.

Evacuees from rebel-held east Aleppo arrive at the town of al-Rashideen [Ammar Abdullah/Reuters]

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies