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Aleppo hopes shaky evacuation deal holds

dpa logodpa 14/12/2016

Residents of eastern Aleppo are hoping a shaky ceasefire deal will hold out long enough for them to evacuate the heavily bombarded territory.

Residents of the rebel-enclave in eastern Aleppo are hoping a shaky deal will hold and allow civilians and injured people to exit the heavily bombarded sliver of territory in Syria's northern Syria.

A ceasefire went into effect in the middle of the night and while fighting had subsided, there were reports of clashes, including rebel attacks on government positions and civilian areas.

The original evacuation deal, brokered by Turkey and Russia, was meant to be implemented 24 hours earlier, but it collapsed before anyone got out, amid disputes. People waited in the cold and rain to no avail.

The new deal, according to rebels, is meant to see civilians and wounded people evacuated first and fighters would be removed from the enclave in the coming days.

It remains unclear if the militants will be allowed to leave with their personal weapons and what will be the fate of al-Qaeda fighters.

Also, west of Aleppo, two Shiite villages, loyal to the government, are demanding humanitarian evacuations as they are under a rebel-imposed siege and heavy bombardment. Their situation remains unclear.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces began the ground offensive to capture rebel-held districts of Aleppo exactly one month ago. The areas have been under control of the armed opposition since 2012.

About five months ago, the government imposed a siege on the opposition districts and the areas have been under sustained attack since.

Thousands of people are still believed to be inside the blocks under rebel control, which is just two square kilometres, or two per cent of the size of the original enclave. The UN says the humanitarian situation inside is catastrophic.

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