The first convoy of people needing medical aid has begun to leave rebel-held areas in Aleppo, according to a monitoring group. The patients will be taken through government territory into countryside held by rebel groups west of the devastated city as agreed in a deal this week. Around 200 people were expected to be evacuated on three buses and taken to a handover point in rebel-held territory. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said no rebel fighters were among those who had left. But a rescue service spokesman claimed the first ambulances were shot at by pro-Assad militias as they crossed out of the east of the city, killing one person and wounding another three.
The people on the ground subjected to ongoing and systematic attacks against civilian areas are certainly thankful of the deal being in place, but the big question from here is will they be included in the convoy.
Mike Seawright, founder of Relief Aid
Al-Farook Abu Bakr, the chief negotiator for the rebels, told the AFP news agency that the first convoy would only be for wounded people, their carers and other civilians. He said rebel fighters would be evacuated after the first or second convoy. Russia has said the rebels will be transported on 20 buses and 10 ambulances in a corridor towards Idlib. Soldiers will also escort them from the city under orders from President Vladimir Putin, according to state news agencies. The Russian defence ministry said Syrian authorities had guaranteed the safety of the rebels and their families and added it would use drones to monitor the convoy. Another 29 trucks and ambulances along with medics were heading to the villages of al Foua and Kefraya, which have been besieged by rebels, to evacuate wounded people and their families, according to Syrian state media.