“What is happening today is the writing of a history written by every Syrian citizen.”
Over 3000 people have been evacuated in buses and ambulances from the rebel-held war-torn city of Aleppo in Syria following a ceasefire deal that will end almost six years of fighting in the city and marks a major victory for Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad.
The evacuation is a result of the desperate pleas from Aleppo residents and reports of the abuse and atrocities they have been suffering, as well as days of intense bombing of houses and apartment buildings, killing so many that it was impossible to determine the death toll.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who is overseeing the evacuation, says the full evacuation of civilians and rebels is likely to take several days. The head of the ICRC painted a devastating picture of the situation before the evacuation.
“A crane was used to remove some of the debris from the street so the ambulances and buses could get through. There were burnt cars. Smoke rising from nearby buildings. There was a lot of fear and uncertainty,” she explained.
“When we arrived, the scene was heart-breaking. People are faced with impossible choices. You see their eyes filled with sadness.”
While people are happy to be leaving the city and be safe, there is a lot of sadness around leaving their homes behind. An Al Jazeera journalist reported seeing the words “one day we will return” written on the dusty window of one of the evacuation buses.
United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said around 50,000 people remain in Aleppo, and 10,000 of those will be evacuated to the nearby province of Idlib, and the rest will be moved to other government-held districts.
In a video message, President Assad said history was being made.
“What is happening today is the writing of a history written by every Syrian citizen. The writing did not start today, it started six years ago when the crisis and war started against Syria.”
The ceasefire comes after a week of assaults from the Syrian government and its ally, Russia. Journalist Zouhir Al Shimale, who is in east Aleppo, said hundreds of families gathered at the departure point for the buses.
“Civilians are given the choice to stay or leave. If they stay, they’ll be under regime control. Most of the people want to go because they are afraid of potential massacres by the regime,” Shimale said.
“In recent days, people are desperate to get to somewhere where we have the supplies – food, medicine, fuel – like we used to have in the days before the siege. Even if they are in refugee camps, people still want to leave the besieged area.”
The ceasefire does not signify an end to the war in Syria, and despite losing ground in Aleppo, the rebels still control large areas of Syria, and so does the Islamic State.
Video via Reuters UK.
Comment: What is your opinion on the Syrian war?