December 16, 2016
Aleppo, Syria Evacuation Underway Amid Bombing Ceasefire - Rebels And Civilians Flee As Assad Takes City [Video]

The Aleppo, Syria evacuation is underway as thousands are bused out of the city amid a recent ceasefire. Aleppo has been under a heavy offensive by the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his allies, particularly Russian forces under President Vladimir Putin. The Assad government forces have advanced rapidly through Aleppo, and the recent ceasefire was called to allow civilians and rebel combatants alike to flee the city. It appears that Assad is victorious in Aleppo as thousands of rebels leave to join units in other parts of Syria. Below, a video from Ruptly shows one of the convoys carrying insurgent rebels out of eastern Aleppo.

Aleppo, Syria Bombing And Siege

People board buses during the Aleppo, Syria evacuation.
Boarding Buses During The Aleppo, Syria Evacuation. [Image by Thiqa News/AP Images]

Aleppo, Syria came under the heaviest assault of the war by Assad government and Russian forces in recent weeks. Aleppo, once Syria's largest city, has been held by insurgent rebel forces since 2012, a year after the civil war in Syria began. A key strategic location for the rebels, who the Assad government and Russia call "terrorists" and "Jihadists," Aleppo was to be a staging ground for offensives against the capital of Damascus to the south.

The assault began with increased air strikes in Aleppo, bombing major rebel centers and neighborhoods. An initial, but short-lived ceasefire agreement was made to allow for the evacuation of civilians, many of whom fled to Assad government held areas within or on the outskirts of Aleppo or to areas held by the Kurdish YPG militia group, which has little history of open hostility with the Assad coalition forces. The Aleppo rebels were offered amnesty if they would lay down their arms, or safe passage out of the city to other areas of Syria which their forces still held, but most refused to accept the offer.

As the Assad and Russian forces advanced into the city, neighborhood after neighborhood fell, until the current ceasefire deal was hammered out in recent days to allow for another Aleppo evacuation, as reported by Reuters. Assad, in a video statement on Syria's state news agency, said that the victory marked a "historic moment" in the five-year Syrian civil war. The war in Syria has claimed the lives of some 300,000 people, and left millions more displaced, setting off a flood of refugees to other parts of the Middle East and Europe. Aleppo, Syria's largest and most cosmopolitan city, is largely left in ruin from years of fighting and bombing campaigns.

Aleppo Evacuation

People on streets wrecked by bombing during the Aleppo, Syria evacuation.
On The Street During The Aleppo, Syria Evacuation. [Image by Thiqa News/AP Images]

The current Aleppo evacuation began in earnest Thursday and continued into Friday as the ceasefire remains firm. RT reports that nine convoys have left the city thus far carrying more than 6,000 people out of the eastern Aleppo neighborhoods once held by rebel forces. Some 3,000 of these are rebel fighters, with about 301 wounded. The below video shows one of the convoys leaving under guard, bound for the province of Idlib to the southwest which is still under rebel control.

With the fall of Aleppo, rebel insurgents had little choice but to accept the offer of safe passage to Idlib from the Russians. A senior European official commented on the matter.

"For the Russians it's simple. Place them all in Idlib and then they have all their rotten eggs in one basket."
The fighting in Aleppo, Syria has been some of the fiercest of the war, and all sides have accused each other of war crimes. Groups within Syria have said that Assad government and Russian airstrikes have killed 1,207 civilians, including 380 children in the assault. United States Secretary of State John Kerry has described the Aleppo fighting as "nothing short of a massacre."

It is hoped that the current Aleppo evacuation will allow for United Nations and Red Cross aid to reach people still inside the city, and perhaps make sense of the ongoing situation. What is clear is that the war in Syria has taken a turn in favor of Assad with the fall of Aleppo, Syria.

[Featured Image by Thiqa News/AP Images]