Just a short update on the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo, which I first wrote about yesterday morning. I wish I could report that the evacuation is going well, but sadly it has been halted. Details are sketchy, but the following seem to be factual:
- Friday, a convoy transporting evacuees was stopped at a checkpoint by militiamen who fired in the air and began taking cellphones and laptops from the evacuees. One unarmed passenger accosted them for talking impolitely to his pregnant wife, so they reportedly shot him on the spot, along with two others.
- Reports about the number of people who have been evacuated vary from 4,000 – 10,000.
- Russia claims, incorrectly, that all civilians wishing to leave had already been evacuated, however World Health Organization (WHO) says there are still thousands, including women and children. WHO staff was ordered to leave the evacuation area on Friday morning, without any stated reason.
- There are multiple accounts that the militiamen shot several people and detained several others. Russian and Syrian officials say that government forces are ‘protecting’ civilians.
- The militiamen forced the Red Cross and Red Crescent escorts to leave the convoy before it was turned back.
- France said on Friday that it would sponsor a United Nations resolution requiring “international observers” to monitor the evacuations; the United States said it would support the move, a largely symbolic gesture because of a likely Russian veto. The Syrian government has denied United Nations staff permission to monitor the process.
Earlier in the day, it was hoped that this was a temporary halt, but the latest information seems to be that the evacuation has not yet re-started. The media in the U.S. seems to be rather low-key about it, and I just wanted to take a brief moment to update readers.