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Buses assigned to Syria evacuations attacked, deal stalls

19 December 2016
Buses assigned to Syria evacuations attacked, deal stalls

A number of buses succeeded in entering Foah and Kefraya, according to the UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Smoke and flames rise from buildings in Aleppo's southeastern al-Zabdiya neighborhood following government strikes on December 14, 2016, after a deal to evacuate rebel districts of the city fell apart.

Activists said militants have burned at least five buses assigned to evacuate wounded and sick people from two villages in northern Syria.

France circulated a draft text late Friday stating that the council is "alarmed" by the worsening humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and by the fact that "tens of thousands of besieged Aleppo inhabitants" are in need of aid and evacuation. However, the idea that monitors "should be told to go to wander around the ruins of eastern Aleppo without proper preparation and without informing everybody about what is going to happen - it has disaster written all over it", he said.

French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters that he would be unable to compromise with Russian Federation on what he described as "basic demands".

Rebel factions in Aleppo condemned the attack on the convoy as a "crime against the revolution".

Delattre said "our goal is to avoid another or a new Srebrenica", a reference to the massacre of almost 8,000 Bosnian Muslims who sought protection in the United Nations safe haven of Srebrenica in 1995 during the Bosnian war. China joined Moscow in vetoing five resolutions.

Sheikh Abdullah al-Muhaysini, a prominent Salafi cleric with close ties to Jabhat Fatah a-Sham, formerly Jabhat a-Nusra, released a voice message on Sunday criticizing the burning of the buses as "impermissible".

Russian Federation said it would veto an earlier draft by France but circulated an alternative version.

If the regime does take control of the key city, it would mark a turning point in the brutal war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Speaking at an academic conference devoted to the plight of Jewish refugees in the Holocaust, Shalev expressed "deep concern over the appalling images of massacres of human beings" in Syria. Shalev says "the global community must put a stop to these atrocities and avert further suffering as well as provide humanitarian assistance to the victims seeking safe haven".

Rebel officials said an angry crowd of people, possibly alongside pro-government "operatives", was responsible.

A rebel representative said yesterday that the new agreement allows evacuations to take place in two phases from Aleppo, Fuaa and Kafraya, as well as Zabadani and Madaya, two rebel towns besieged by the regime in Damascus province.

Earlier Sunday, pro-Syrian government TV stations showed dozens of buses on stand-by at a crossing near eastern Aleppo, reportedly poised to resume evacuations from the opposition's last foothold in the city.

The government's side said it wanted simultaneous evacuations from Foua and Kfarya.

The United Nations Security Council is due to vote Sunday on a French-drafted resolution aimed at ensuring that U.N. officials can monitor evacuations from Aleppo and the protection of civilians who remain. "The general atmosphere is better" with this deal but there were still chances for it to be derailed, he said in a statement issued on Sunday morning. Negotiations between pro-government and opposition forces as well as their worldwide backers, were believed to still be going on Sunday to finalise how the evacuations would take place and how many people would leave.

The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, calls on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately redeploy United Nations staff already on the ground to carry out "neutral monitoring" and "direct observation and to report on evacuations".

"We believe quite simply that what they are proposing is unworkable and unsafe", Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters about the French proposal.