Aleppo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – With the fall of the Al-Amiriyah district, the last 1 per cent held by rebels, all of the city of Aleppo is now in Assad’s hands for the first time since opposition to his regime broke out in 2011.
The evacuation of civilians, the wounded and rebels began today. The first buses and ambulances full of civilians and wounded started to leave Al-Amiriyah in the early afternoon headed for regime-held Ramoussa on their way to the rebel-held western part of Aleppo province.
Red Cross/Red Crescent vehicles led the caravan of 20 buses and 13 ambulances, including, according to several sources, some of the 4,000 rebels left in the city and their families.
Syrian military authorities managed to get a list of all those who left east Aleppo. The evacuation of the rebels was agreed yesterday by Syria, Russia, Iran and Turkey, but the absence of the list had reportedly been one factor in the collapse of the earlier deal.
A source close to the regime also said the agreement involves the evacuation of sick and wounded residents of Fuaa and Kafraya, two government-held villages in Idlib province that are besieged by rebel forces.
The offensive launched by Syrian ground forces and Russian planes – along with Iraqi, Iranian, Lebanese militias – began on 15 November.
Before the war, Aleppo was Syria’s second largest city and its economic hub. Gradually, it was dragged into the civil war, which split the city into two. By 21 July 2012, Free Syrian Army rebels had occupied its eastern and southern neighbourhoods, whilst the western section remained in loyalist hands.
As time went by, Jihadi groups like the al Nusra Front and the Islamic State took over the revolution. When fighting broke out in the rebel camp, the al Nusra Front (which is linked to al Qaeda) defeated other rebel groups.
The divisions within the opposition helped the regime, which made retaking Aleppo a priority war objective. To achieve it, Assad’s forces laid siege to the rebel-held area and destroyed its infrastructure and supply routes.
The international community’s charges of "war crimes" in relation to the 250,000 civilians trapped in east Aleppo failed to change things, except to increase arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who back Assad’s opposition.
Pope Francis himself turned his attention to Aleppo in many statements and prayers.
Over the past few weeks, both sides have denounced the other’s acts of violence as war crimes.