Cold Comfort and Abandonment
"What is happening in Aleppo is tragic and it needs to change."
"Our [Canadian government] focus has always been in in Iraq and that is our focus now. Right now we have no plans to be militarily involved in Syria."
Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan: London meeting of defence ministers fighting ISIL
"We slept in the streets [through rain, freezing winter temperatures]. It's shameful. Where is the world?"
"You don't know if it's an airplane [overhead] or shelling or rockets. You never know."
Unnamed east Aleppo Syrian, weeping in fear and despair, leaning on crutches
"It took four thousand years to build Aleppo -- hundreds of generations. One generation managed to tear it down in four years."
"We feel all strongly that the history of Aleppo through this war will be a black chapter in the history of international relations."
"[Aleppo] gave to world civilization, and world civilization was not there to assist the people of Aleppo when they needed us the most."
Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian aid co-ordinator for Syria
The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that 985 "terrorists and their families" had been evacuated through the auspices of the regime, sending its infamous green school buses, re-purposed to transport fear-dazed residents of east Aleppo who show up at checkpoints out of the city systematically destroyed by their government in its determination to demolish any hope of opposition survival.
"According to several sources, an Iranian-backed militia blocked a road that the evacuees would be using to reach the Aleppo countryside. It then started firing."
"According to the reports, they were protesting against this evacuation deal, which would see the villages of Fua and Kefraya evacuated in a similar way east Aleppo was."
Al Jazeera reporter
Laying siege, starving out the residents, refusing to permit humanitarian aid to deliver medicines and medical assistance along with potable water, offering safe passage to those wishing to leave, permitting rebel fighters to leave to travel to rebel-held territories, making arrests, disappearing hundreds of young men, imprisoning and torturing others, never to be heard from again. Others yet forcibly conscripted into the military. And repeat and repeat where necessary.
Bashar al-Assad is jubilant. "History is being made. What is happening is bigger than congratulations", he exulted, describing it on a scale of world-class historical events, comparable to the birth of Christ and the Prophet Mohammad's introduction of Islam's Qur'an to warring Bedouin tribes. The buses that are assigned to pick up anguished Syrians to deliver them to rebel-held territory in Idlib, bear Assad's portraits displayed prominently.
According to Mohammed Abu Jaafer, head of the enclave's forensics department a "tremendous crowd" appeared at a pre-designated collection point to be evacuated by bus on Thursday. He estimates that 70,000 civilians are yet awaiting evacuation. The Turkish news agency Anadolou was informed by a Turkish official that Syrian government forces had taken at least 800 people into custody before the latest ceasefire agreement was suspended and with it, the evacuations.
Once government forces had retaken most of east Aleppo, some six thousand civilians and rebels are said to have since left. Among them an estimated 2,700 children, according to an UN agency report. Tens of thousands of cold and hungry people remain stranded in the east of the city, awaiting their turn to leave that immense graveyard of civilization. In Idlib and Aleppo provinces whee the rebels still hold ground, finding housing for the evacuees has become a high priority, many of them consigned to camps.
But the rebel-held areas are precisely where the evacuated Syrians out of east Aleppo choose to go, where they are at least temporarily safe. Until such time as the regime completes its command of east Aleppo, though rebel commanders state that thousands of rebel fighters remain there and intend to fight to the end. Once the end arrives, the regime will inevitably turn its attention to restoring other rebel-held positions to itself, through siege, bombardment, starvation, privation, barrel bombs.
|Buses evacuate rebel fighters and their families from rebel0held neighbourhoods in the Syrian city of Aleppo. A convoy of ambulances and buses left rebel territory Thursday in the first evacuations under a deal for opposition fighters to leave the city after years of fighting. Karam al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images|