Orphans among thousands evacuated from east Aleppo
Thousands of people, including dozens of orphans, leave Aleppo in ongoing evacuation effort from besieged Syrian city.
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.
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.
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.
Nearly 50 children who were trapped in an orphanage in east Aleppo were evacuated, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
“This morning, all 47 children trapped in an orphanage in east Aleppo were evacuated to safety, with some in critical condition from injuries and dehydration,” Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director, said in a statement.
UNICEF and other agencies were also assisting in reunifying other children evacuated in the past few days with their families and giving them medical care and winter clothes, he said.
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.
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.
‘Sleeping in the streets’
Thousands of people remain in eastern Aleppo, many sleeping in the streets in freezing temperatures as they wait to be evacuated.
“Conditions in eastern Aleppo remain extremely dire,” said Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Gaziantep on the Turkey-Syria border.
“In the evenings it can go to -5C. They have access to very little food, fuel, water and medical supplies.”
Most of the evacuees are taken to rebel-held Idlib province or Aleppo countryside.
Turkey has said that they could also be housed in a camp to be built near the Turkish border to the north.
Meanwhile at the United Nations, France and Russia announced agreement on a compromise resolution to deploy UN monitors to eastern Aleppo to ensure safe evacuations and immediate delivery of humanitarian aid.
France’s UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, told reporters the compromise was reached after more than three hours of closed consultations on Sunday and the Security Council would vote on the resolution on Monday.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters before consultations that Moscow could not accept the French draft resolution unless it was changed.
He presented council members with a rival text.
After the consultations, Churkin said a “good text” had been formulated.
The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said the resolution would quickly put more than 100 UN personnel on the ground to monitor evacuations.
“The text contains all the elements for safe, secure, dignified evacuation, for humanitarian access to those who choose to remain in eastern Aleppo” and for protecting civilians, she said.
She said that following the siege in eastern Aleppo, there have been “many, many reports of people being pulled off buses and disappeared, whether into conscription or into torture chambers or killed outright.”
Deploying UN monitors would deter “some of the worst excesses,” she said.
Russia, which has provided military backing to Assad, has vetoed six Security Council resolutions on Syria since the conflict started in 2011.
China joined Russia in vetoing five resolutions.
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 a matter of weeks.