A number of buses meant to evacuate opposition fighters and their families have been sent to the rebel-held sector of Syria’s Aleppo as part of a deal, according to reports.
Syrian state television reported on Sunday that the deal between the government and opposition fighters to evacuate people from east Aleppo, in return for the evacuation of people from Fouaa and Kefraya, two Shia-majority villages in Idlib province besieged by Sunni rebels, had begun to be implemented.
However, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that buses from those villages, which are north of Idlib city, had initially come under attack and were burned
State television broadcast pictures of flames coming from the green buses.
“We understand the buses were empty at the time,” said Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Gaziantep on the Turkish-Syrian border. “Really, what we’re seeing is some sort of tit-for-tat situation which effectively puts any evacuations on hold.”
Our correspondent was referring to the four people who reportedly were recently killedby Syrian government forces as they attempted to leave eastern Aleppo.
After being prevented from entering for hours, ambulances and buses were able to enter Fouaa and Kefraya later on Sunday .
The SOHR said the operation would evacuate about 4,000 people, including patients, orphans and families.
The Aleppo evacuation ground to a halt on Friday after a disagreement between the rebels and a coalition of forces fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, who wanted people to be allowed to leave the two villages.
Over 15,000 people gathered in a square in east Aleppo on Sunday to wait for buses to arrive and take them to rebel-held areas outside the city.
Many had spent the night sleeping in the streets in freezing temperatures.
“Conditions in eastern Aleppo remain extremely dire,” said Al Jazeera’s Tyab. “In the evenings it can go to -5C. They have access to very little food, fuel, water and medical supplies. The situation on the ground remains grim as people wait.”