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Iran Behind Halted Evacuation Efforts in Syria

On Thursday, over 3,000 people were removed from Aleppo. However, approximately 800 were turned back on Friday ending the evacuation attempts. Witnesses said that four people were killed and others were attacked and had their money taken from them. 

It has been reported that a new ceasefire deal has been agreed so that more people could be evacuated. 

On Saturday, civilians trapped in the city waited in desperation to be rescued. The Red Cross also called for evacuations to start again so that thousands more lives could be saved.

The head of the political wing of the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group who was part of the negotiations claimed that Iran wanted two rebel-besieged Shia villages in northwest Syria to be evacuated before letting civilians in Aleppo leave. He said that Russia was struggling to restrain Iran. He said: “Iran and its sectarian proxies are using the humanitarian situation of our people in besieged Aleppo and preventing civilians from leaving until the evacuation of their groups in al-Foua and Kefraya.”

He added that Iranian-backed fighters were responsible for holding back hundreds of people who were trying to leave on Friday. “These sectarian militias are responsible, but we warn them the safety of our people in Aleppo is the priority and all options are open towards achieving that goal.”

Russia has emphasised that the majority of civilians have now left Aleppo showing that it is trying to neglect its responsibility. “Russia has failed to restrain the sectarian Shia militias in Aleppo to complete the deal and Moscow should abide by its commitments. There are still civilians in Aleppo who need to be evacuated in harsh weather conditions and Russian statements that besieged Aleppo is empty is absolving itself from following up on the agreement.”

Those who were trying to flee Aleppo described the terrible conditions they had to endure in freezing temperatures in the al-Amiriyah area (the departure point). They said that there was no food or drink and things are getting worse and worse.