Syrian rebels, seeking to oust authoritarian Bashar al-Assad, held Iran and its proxy militias on Saturday for holding up a deal to evacuate civilians trapped in the remaining rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo.
The operation to evacuate fighters and civilians from the last opposition-held area of Aleppo was suspended on Friday, its second day, after pro-regime militias demanded that wounded people also be brought out of al-Foua and Kefraya, and protesters blocked the road out of Aleppo.
Munir al Sayal, the head of the political wing of the Ahrar al Sham rebel group involved in negotiations over the deal, said Iran was insisting people be allowed to leave two besieged Shi’ite villages before letting the Aleppo evacuation happen. He said Russia was failing to restrain its ally.
“Iran and its sectarian proxies are using the humanitarian situation of our people in besieged Aleppo and preventing civilians from leaving until the evacuation of their groups in al-Foua and Kefyra,” Sayal told Reuters.
Sayal said Moscow’s assertion that most civilians had already been evacuated from Aleppo showed Russia was trying to renege on its responsibilities under the deal. Thousands of hungry and cold civilians needed to be evacuated as soon as possible, he said.
“Russia has failed to restrain the sectarian Shi’ite militias in Aleppo to complete the deal and Moscow should abide by its commitments,” Sayal said.
“There are still civilians in Aleppo who need to be evacuated in harsh weather conditions and Russian statements that besieged Aleppo is empty is absolving itself from following up on the agreement,” he added.