The pullout of more than 5,000 militants and their families through a humanitarian corridor has begun in eastern Aleppo, the Russian General Staff said. Wounded rebels will be evacuated by the Russian Reconciliation Center with International Red Cross involvement.
The operation to evacuate the militants and their families from eastern Aleppo was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov told foreign military attachés on Thursday.
“To allow the militants leave the city, a 21km humanitarian corridor has been set up. Of those, 6km lie across Aleppo’s territories controlled by government troops and the other 15km to the west of the city go through militant-held areas,” he said.
Twenty passenger busses and 10 ambulances have been provided to evacuate the militants, while around 100 cars are being used by the militants themselves, he added.
The first bus column carrying militants departed from Aleppo to Idlib at about 12:30 GMT, according to the latest reports. The motorcade is being accompanied by humanitarian workers and employees of the Reconciliation Center.
The first column is carrying around 1,500 people, including rebel fighters and their family members, a Red Crescent member told RIA Novosti. Ambulances are carrying injured people who cannot be safely transported by other means.
Volunteers from the ICRC and other humanitarian organizations are helping with transporting injured people as part of the larger evacuation.
“We expect that during the day there will be around 250 wounded and critically wounded to be evacuated. The whole operation will take some time because it will require multiple rotations, but the operation is now going as planned,” spokesperson for the ICRC in Syria, Ingy Sedky told .
— Ingy Sedky (@isedkyICRC) December 15, 2016
She added that so far there were no signs that despite some media reports to the contrary the planned evacuation would be thwarted by an attack by any party.
“They are safe,” she said, referring to the evacuees and humanitarian workers involved in the evacuation. “The operation is going well so far and people are starting to gather to get on the buses and ambulances in order to be evacuated.”
Mona Kurdy from the sister organization Syrian Arab Red Crescent told RT that the volunteers “are in the field, they are doing their jobs and everybody hopes that they can do exactly what they have to do.”
Previously, Russian Reconciliation Center said personnel from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were involved in the operation to escort wounded militants.
The Syrian government will ensure the security of all members of militant groups who are willing to leave eastern Aleppo, the statement noted.
The evacuation operation will be monitored by web cameras that the Russian Defense Ministry has installed along the corridors, as well as surveillance drones. Livestream footage will be available at the ministry’s website.
On Wednesday morning, the Syrian army was attacked in eastern Aleppo when buses sent to evacuate the militants entered the area, violating a previously reached ceasefire agreement, the Russian Reconciliation Center said, adding that the army had repelled the attackers.
The Syrian Army has liberated most of the neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city held by Al-Nusra terrorists and other militant groups over the past weeks. At present, the militants control just 2.5 square kilometers of Aleppo, according to the Reconciliation Center.
A large-scale humanitarian operation is going on in the area. On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that up to 100,000 people, including 40,000 children, have been evacuated from eastern Aleppo.