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In East Aleppo, Final Evacuations Continue As Regime Prepares To Enter Enclave

Syrian rebel fighters and civilians are evacuated from pockets of eastern Aleppo on Wednesday.
George Ourfalian
AFP/Getty Images
Syrian rebel fighters and civilians are evacuated from pockets of eastern Aleppo on Wednesday.

Evacuations continue from east Aleppo, as remaining rebels and civilians wait in freezing weather for transportation out of the city.

The end of the evacuations may be coming soon: NPR's Alice Fordham reports that regime forces might be entering the tiny enclave that has been held by rebels as early as Thursday evening.

The fall of eastern Aleppo to the forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar Assad has been a foregone conclusion for weeks now. The question was whether civilians and fighters would be allowed to leave.

Evacuations have proceeded in fits and starts, with cease-fires and truces failing and being renegotiated. By buses and private cars, thousands of residents are fleeing the city, though some have chosen to stay.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says some 34,000 people have escaped in the week since evacuations began.

"The critically injured and the very ill have now been all evacuated from east Aleppo, so now it's just a question of the remaining civilians and the rebels who are still in east Aleppo," the BBC's John Longman reports. "It's always been very difficult to have a true idea of the numbers of people who are in that part of the city. The United Nations estimated that something around the region of 50,000 needed to come out."

Wintry weather has made the final evacuations difficult, Alice reports.

"An eyewitness at the crossing point says last night the evacuation was delayed as vehicles failed and snow fell. The evacuation restarted at dawn and is expected to go on until dusk tonight," she says.

NPR's Alison Meuse reports on Twitter that people in east Aleppo say they've been waiting in the cold for days, without food, at the place where the buses board — afraid to leave and seek shelter in case they miss their chance to leave the city.

Meanwhile, a few hundred civilians "want to stay in their homes," Alice says.

"Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad are expected to enter that last pocket of Aleppo as soon as this evening, the final phase of a victory that has greatly bolstered the president after six bloody years of civil war," she says.

"But international condemnation of his tactics continues. Yesterday, the U.N. General Assembly voted to prepare a war crimes case against the Syrian regime."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.