Five buses allowed to leave rebel-held district of Aleppo

United Nations will vote today on resolution to monitor evacuations from Syrian city

The Syrian army and its allies on Sunday allowed a convoy of five buses and two ambulances from the rebel-held district of Aleppo to reach al-Rashideen outside the city, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

The convoy had been held for hours after leaving the Ramousah highway junction next to the rebel-held part of the city.

In New York, the United Nations Security Council agreed on Sunday on a compromise draft resolution on UN officials monitoring the evacuations from Aleppo. It will vote on the text on Monday.

Earlier, armed men burned five buses that were supposed to be used for an evacuation near Idlib in Syria on Sunday, stalling a deal to allow thousands to depart the last rebel pocket in Aleppo, where evacuees crammed into buses for hours before departing the city.


The observatory said the evacuation of the villages near Idlib had been postponed as a result of the incident.

Five buses leaving Aleppo were held, packed with evacuees, for hours before they could drive the 5km to rebel-held territory outside.

In return for the evacuation of fighters, their families and other civilians from Aleppo, the mostly Sunni insurgents had agreed that people in the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, Shi’ite villages that they have besieged near Idlib, should also be allowed to leave.

Videos posted on social media showed bearded men with guns cheering and shouting “God is great” after torching the green buses before they were able to reach the villages.

State media said “armed terrorists”, a term it uses for all groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad, had carried out the attack.

Angry crowd

Pro-Damascus Mayadeen television and the observatory blamed the rebel group formerly known as the Nusra Front. Rebel officials said an angry crowd of people, possibly alongside pro-government “operatives”, was responsible.

Although the Aleppo evacuation convoy was eventually cleared to drive to rebel-held al-Rashideen, there was no official word on what impact the bus burning would have on the departure of more convoys from the city and the two villages.

While the observatory said the convoy of five buses had reached al-Rashideen, a United Nations official in Syria said only that they had left east Aleppo, adding: “The evacuations are on”.

Robert Mardini, regional director for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which is at the forefront of the operation, tweeted that the buses and one ambulance of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent “just left dark & cold E Aleppo”, adding: “Hopeful operation will proceed smoothly.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Assad’s main foreign backer, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the rebels’ main supporter, agreed by telephone on Sunday that the disruptions must be quickly overcome, sources in Mr Erdogan’s office said.

The commander of forces allied to Mr Assad said there was still a chance for states with influence over rebel groups to find a way to evacuate civilians safely. In a statement carried by a military news outlet run by Damascus’s ally, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, the allied forces leadership said responsibility for the delay in the evacuation falls with “terrorists and their state sponsors”.

– Reuters