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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand atop a damaged tank near Umayyad mosque, in the government-controlled area of Aleppo, during a media tour on December 13, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

Battle for Aleppo Ends With Beseiged City in Syrian Government Control

A ceasefire was reportedly brokered by Turkey and Russia, allowing civilians and rebel fighters to evacuate

Deirdre Fulton

The Syrian government is reportedly in control of eastern Aleppo, according to news reports on Tuesday afternoon, with a deal having been reached to evacuate civilians and opposition fighters.

Damascus confirmed the evacuation deal and the United Nations envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, reportedly told the Associated Press in a text message that the safe withdrawal of people from the besieged area was now "imminent," amid reports of attacks on civilians. A senior Turkish official and rebel officials similarly confirmed the news to the Guardian.

"An agreement has been reached for the evacuation of the residents of Aleppo, civilians and fighters with their light weapons, from the besieged districts of east Aleppo," Yasser al-Youssef, from the political office of the key Nurredin al-Zinki Syrian rebel group, told Agence France-Presse.

He said the deal was "sponsored by Russia and Turkey" and would be implemented "within hours."

Reuters reports:

"The fighters are going to leave the city," Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters in New York.

Rebel officials said fighting would end on Tuesday evening and a source in the pro-Assad military alliance said the evacuation of fighters would begin at around dawn on Wednesday. A Reuters reporter in Aleppo said late on Tuesday that the booms of the bombardment could no longer be heard.

Fighters and their families, along with civilians who have thrown in their lot with the rebels, will have until Wednesday evening to quit the city, a Turkish government source said on Tuesday. The ceasefire was negotiated by Turkey and Russia.

The United States was not involved in brokering the deal, according to the U.S. State Department. The U.S. did reportedly call for international observers to be allowed in Aleppo to oversee the evacuation of civilians.

According to the Guardian, a "senior Turkish official said Ankara and Moscow would act as guarantors of the agreement, which would allow 'civilians and moderate rebels with light weapons' to leave Aleppo for Idlib province."

The official said: "Once they reach Idlib, they will be free to relocate."

Amid concerns about alleged attacks on civilians—the UN human rights office said it had reliable evidence that up to 82 civilians were shot on the spot by government and allied forces on Tuesday—Amnesty International warned that Aleppo's civilian population may still be at risk.

"It is now crucial that independent monitors are deployed to ensure that the civilian population is protected and that humanitarian access is granted so that life-saving aid can reach all those in need," said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty's Beirut regional office.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein echoed that charge in a statement, saying, "we are nowhere near the end of this cruel conflict."

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