Evacuations from Aleppo resumed on Wednesday evening after the government and rebel forces agreed to a ceasefire deal. A few thousand civilians, who were stranded for a day at checkpoints following a breakdown in the evacuation agreement, departed for Idlib province in buses and hundreds of private vehicles.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in the United Kingdom said this was the last batch of civilians to be evacuated from the city. “Buses are now moving again from east Aleppo. We hope that this continues so that people can be safely evacuated,” a UN official in Syria told Reuters. Turkey is setting up a new refugee camp for the evacuees. The camp will be able to accommodate 50,000 people, according to CNN.
However, the bitter cold has made the evacuation process a challenge. Many people, including four babies, have died while aid groups said that the weather conditions in the Idlib province was no better. “These families have been forced from their homes after unimaginable suffering and are now staying in tents and abandoned buildings in a snow storm, in an area that was already overwhelmed with displaced people,” Nick Finney, country director for Save the Children, told The Guardian.
Aid workers said some of the rescued children “were in total shock as they saw fruits and cooked meals being distributed”. Muslem Essa of the charity outfit Violet in Idlib told The Guardian, “Many ran off the buses leaving their parents behind to take an apple or a banana. This has caused children to be separated from their families in the chaos, but some of them had not seen a piece of fruit in five or six months.” Most of the children are malnourished and many suffer from chronic health problems.
Evacuation from east Aleppo and the two Shia villages of Foua and Kefraya, were stalled on Tuesday because of a fallout between the rebels and the government forces. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, around 25,000 people have been evacuated from Aleppo and 750 more from the two Shia villages so far. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said more than 37,000 people have already been evacuated from Aleppo.