After a long siege, widespread outrage and international pressure, a ceasefire “surrender deal” has been agreed upon in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo. Here’s everything you need to know about the situation.
Russia has declared an end to all military action, and the Syrian government has assumed control of the city.
The deal allows civilians and opposition fighters to be evacuated from eastern Aleppo. This will hopefully signal the end of months of heavy fighting and reports of mass killings by government forces.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon warned of “atrocities against civilians” in Aleppo in the lead-up to the ceasefire. He’s not alone in voicing his concerns: world leaders and aid agencies have been issuing dramatic appeals on behalf of trapped residents, with the UN human rights office saying that pro-government forces had reportedly killed 82 civilians as they closed in on the last remaining rebel areas.
When the deal was announced, celebrations broke out in the government-controlled western sector of the city, with people honking their car horns and waving Syrian flags from the windows.
Aleppo has passed between the rebels and the government since 2012, so securing the city would be President Bashar Assad’s biggest victory yet in the civil war.
Aleppo is Syria’s former commercial powerhouse, and has long been regarded as a major gateway between Turkey and Syria. It has been seen as the biggest prize over the course of the conflict.
Several residents and opposition activists in Syria said government forces carried out summary killings of rebels in neighbourhoods captured on Monday, but the Syrian military denied the claim, saying such allegations were “a desperate attempt” to gain international sympathy.
None of the residents witnessed the alleged killings and the reports came amid deepening chaos in the remaining rebel-held areas. Mohammed Abu Rajab, the administrator of the last remaining clinic in rebel-held parts of the city, said the dead and wounded were being left in the streets.
Bashar al-Ja’afari, Syria’s ambassador to the UN, denied any mass executions or revenge attacks, but added it was Syria’s “constitutional right” to go after “terrorists”, a reference to all opposition fighters.
Meanwhile the UN children’s agency said it had received a report of more than 100 unaccompanied children trapped in a building under fire in eastern Aleppo.
Unicef was concerned over reports of “extrajudicial killings of civilians, including children”, said the agency’s regional director Geert Cappalaere.
The UN human rights office said it had received reports of pro-government forces killing at least 82 civilians in four neighbourhoods of the rapidly-shrinking rebel enclave, including 11 women and 13 children. Spokesman Rupert Colville said the reports described pro-government forces entering homes and killing civilians “on the spot”.
The ceasefire in east Aleppo didn’t even last a day. This activist tells the world about the wounded while shelling can be heard around him. pic.twitter.com/qytxnUNncB— AJ+ (@ajplus) December 14, 2016