Aleppo evacuation stalled, emergency teams leaving: WHO

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Geneva, Dec 16 (IANS) The evacuation of civilians and fighters from the Syrian city of Aleppo was stalled and medical NGOs were forced to leave the area on Friday, a World Health Organisation representative said.

Elizabeth Hoff, representative for the WHO in Aleppo, said that the evacuation operation had been aborted and her organisation and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were forced to leave with their ambulances and buses, reports Efe.

She said they were not given any explanation for the sudden stop to the evacuation.

On Thursday, an operation began to evacuate civilians and opposition fighters from besieged areas of the city, where food and medical shortages are common.

After forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad made strong advances and recaptured 98 per cent of the city, the regime brokered a deal with Syria and its Russian allies to implement a ceasefire and begin evacuation.

Hoff said the evacuation process had run relatively smoothly until 6.30 a.m. (local time), but around 11 a.m. emergency services were suddenly told to leave.

Up until 7.00 a.m., at least 194 injured were able to be evacuated, including some fighters wounded in battle and some chronically ill civilians who had not received medical aid in months.

An initial ceasefire scheduled for Wednesday collapsed into violence just 24 hours before the evacuation procedure precariously restarted.

–IANS

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