Russia, Syria preparing rebels' evacuation from Aleppo
MOSCOW - Russia's defence ministry said Thursday it was working with the Syrian authorities to prepare the evacuation of the remaining rebels in war-torn eastern Aleppo.
"On the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian ceasefire monitoring centre, in cooperation with Syrian authorities, is preparing the evacuation of the remaining rebels and members of their families from the eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo," a ministry statement said.
The rebels would be evacuated toward the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib in 20 buses and 10 ambulances, it said.
The announcement comes as a new agreement was reached for the evacuation of rebel fighters remaining in Aleppo, according to a senior Syrian military source.
The Russian defence ministry said that Syrian authorities had guaranteed the safety of the rebels leaving the city.
A similar evacuation which had been due to take place on Wednesday morning fell apart, with Russia saying the Syrian army had resumed its assault on eastern Aleppo after rebels broke a truce intended to allow them to leave.
The rebels' evacuation would mark a major victory for President Bashar al-Assad over the opposition forces who rose up against him in March 2011.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Moscow expected rebel resistance in Aleppo to end in the next "two to three days."
Moscow is backing staunch ally Assad's forces with a bombing campaign, while Washington has supported rebel forces battling the regime.
The fall of Aleppo would be the worst rebel defeat since the start of the conflict, leaving the regime in control of Syria's five major cities.
More than 300,000 people have been killed and over half of the population displaced in nearly six years of deadly fighting. Millions have also fled the country.