Last group to be evacuated from Syria’s Aleppo within hours


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ALEPPO — The evacuation of the last remaining civilians and fighters from a rebel-held enclave in eastern Aleppo will be completed in the coming hours, the Red Cross and state TV said Thursday, as more gunmen and civilians braved freezing temperatures to leave.

The evacuations were set in motion last week after Syria’s opposition agreed to surrender its last footholds in eastern Aleppo. Since then, about 30,000 fighters and civilians have been bused out, according to the United Nations. On Wednesday, buses began evacuating the last group, an estimated 3,000 people.

The departures pave the way for President Bashar Assad to assume full control after more than four years of fighting over Syria’s largest city. It marks his most significant victory since an uprising against his family’s four-decade rule swept the country in 2011.

Ingy Sedky, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the few thousand remaining people will be evacuated in 40 buses and hundreds of private cars. She said another four buses will leave the besieged government-held villages of Foua and Kfarya in the northwestern Idlib province.

Sedky said the operation will take place over multiple stages and will likely be completed later on Thursday.

Syrian state TV said “Aleppo will be free of terrorists within the next few hours.”

Exclusive Associated Press footage from Aleppo showed armed rebels in pickup trucks leaving the eastern part of the city on Thursday through the Ramouseh crossing.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said some 1,500 evacuees have decided to stay in government-controlled areas. He said a snow storm delayed the evacuation of civilians to rebel-held areas on the western outskirts of the city.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV reported that two of the four buses that left Foua and Kfarya have arrived in government-held areas in Aleppo and two others are being held until the last group leaves Aleppo.

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