An operation to evacuate thousands of civilians and fighters from the last rebel bastion in Aleppo was under way on Thursday, Dec. 15, part of a ceasefire deal that would end years of fighting for the city and mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the evacuation of around 200 wounded people had started. Russia, a major ally of Assad, said 5,000 Syrian rebels and family members were being brought out of eastern Aleppo.
The evacuation plan was the culmination of two weeks of rapid advances by the Syrian army and its allies that drove insurgents back into an ever-smaller pocket of the city under intense air strikes and artillery fire.
By taking control of Aleppo, Assad has proved the power of his military coalition, aided by Russia’s air force and an array of Shi’ite militias from across the region.
Rebels have been backed by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies, but that support has fallen far short of the direct military assistance given to Assad by Russia and Iran.
Russia’s decision to deploy its air force to Syria more than a year ago turned the war in Assad’s favor after rebel advances across western Syria. In addition to Aleppo, he has won back insurgent strongholds near Damascus this year. (Reuters)