Syria: Assad suspends Aleppo evacuation

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The Syrian government has suspended the evacuation of civilians and fighters from opposition-held eastern Aleppo, blaming the rebels for breaking the ceasefire.

The government accused the rebels of failing to uphold their part of the agreement and evacuate civilians from two rebel-held towns elsewhere in Syria, Foua and Kefraya. Syrian state television also claimed the rebels had attempted to smuggle heavy weapons out of east Aleppo, which was contrary to the terms of the agreement.

In the hours that the evacuation was in operation, buses carrying civilians out of east Aleppo were fired upon. Both sides have accused each other of firing on the buses.

At least 6,000 people were transported out of east Aleppo to rebel-held areas of neighbouring Idlib province before the evacuation was suspended.

World Health Organisation (WHO) official Elizabeth Hoff said Russian forces had informed aid organisations and NGOs that the evacuation had been suspended on Friday morning, but no reason was given.

It is unclear exactly how many people remain trapped in east Aleppo, where there are no functioning hospital and food and medical supplies are fast running out. On Thursday, UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, estimated there were “50,000 people, including 40,000 civilians, unfortunate enough to live in that part of the city”.

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