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Aleppo…The “Big Departure” Day - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut – It’s the “dream” day which turned into a nightmare. It’s the day of the “big departure” from destroyed Aleppo, after a tight siege ended through forced deportation of tens of thousands of families. And at a time when Iran’s conditions engendered more obstacles, Moscow took control of the situation in Aleppo Thursday by reinforcing the truce deal to secure the exit of hundreds of civilians and wounded people who had arrived in the afternoon to the west Aleppo countryside, as fighters are expected to head to Idlib.

The tears of mothers and families who were forced to leave their houses and the signs of hope of a near return, reflected the struggle which Aleppo residents endured in the last days spent inside their city. Before walking out, Aleppo residents preferred to burn their belongings so that they don’t end up in the hands of “strangers,” but they left behind them their loved ones and the human remains under the rubble, after the civil defense failed to remove them.

And while the Red Cross had described the first step of the evacuation as “positive,” Robert Mardini, the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Middle East director told Reuters on Thursday: “The report received and what my colleagues were telling me was heartbreaking. People are totally exhausted, disillusioned, and disappointed.”

Mardini added: “But they were so happy to see us, they were thankful for us being there, although we failed them, because it’s too little too late, but yet it is important.”

The first hours of the truce did not pass without violations before the Russians pledged to secure the safety of civilians. Civilians were therefore moved in several batches using green buses now recognized for being the transportation means of the “forced exile” conducted by regime forces.

President of the regime Bashar Assad appeared at noon on Thursday through the Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency. Assad “blessed” what he called “history in the making” in Aleppo.

Member of the local council of Aleppo Besher Hawi told Asharq Al-Awsat there was confusion in the evacuation process because concerned parties were quick in reaching an agreement concerning the exit of families.

But, Hawi said that the Local Council is currently working to organize the evacuation by preparing a list according to which each family would know the time of its departure from Aleppo.

He asserted the presence of at least 70,000 people, including 4,000 fighters. “Until now, there is no accurate numbers due to the presence of open passages through which some families were leaving eastern Aleppo,” Hawi said.

He expected the evacuation to last 3 to 5 days.