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Eastern Aleppo Is Empty… Turkey to End “Al-Bab” Battle | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Women carry their belongings as they wait to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria December 18, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Ankara, Beirut- While the clearance of eastern Aleppo from opposition factions and civilians continues, Turkey was working Wednesday to bring the battle in al-Bab city to an end.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday all patients with other people who needed urgent medical care were evacuated from eastern Aleppo.

Simultaneously, the Turkish army announced that Euphrates Shield forces had completely controlled the highway linking al-Bab city, the ISIS midpoint north Syria, to Aleppo. The Turkish Army announced 138 ISIS members and 14 Turkish soldiers were killed during the battle.

“The operation to control al-Bab, which is being besieged under the Euphrates Shield Operation, is ongoing,” the army said in a statement.

Official Turkish sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday that a positive atmosphere had prevailed over the trilateral meeting that was held in Moscow to discuss the Syrian crisis.

The foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran met on Tuesday and vowed to expand a ceasefire to the entire Syrian territories and to reach a deal between the regime and the opposition. They jointly issued a documen called the “Moscow Declaration.”

The sources said all attending parties were clearly convinced about the need to solve the Syria crisis and that intransigence would not help in this issue. “The Moscow Declaration will positively reflect on the Syria crisis,” the sources said.

Meanwhile, member of the Free Syrian Army military council Abu Ahmad al-Asimi told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday that he expected the evacuation process to continue during the next hours to secure the departure of all civilian and armed forces form eastern Aleppo. He said the completion of the evacuation process would close the wound over bleeding Aleppo.

“Civilians are sent to opposition-controlled areas in Western Rural Aleppo, based on an agreement reached between Russia and Turkey and implemented in coordination with the U.N. and the International Red Cross,” al-Asimi said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted reliable sources on Wednesday as saying “a dispute emerged between Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Iranians concerning the tools and the priorities of the Turkish-Russian-Iranian agreement.”

The Observatory said there was an agreement to evacuate 2,500 people from al-Foua and Kefraya in exchange of the exit of what was left in eastern Aleppo, before being faced by obstacles.

However, armed opposition sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the dispute is mainly between the Iranians and the Russians, adding that “Hezbollah might have an approach different from the Iranian one, but (head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard) Qassem Suleimani decides in Aleppo and not Hezbollah, which is bound to execute Suleimani’s orders similar to all militias linked to Tehran.”

On Wednesday, Ahmad al-Dbis, who heads a team of doctors and volunteers coordinating evacuations, told AFP that a convoy of 20 buses had transported 1,500 people out of the last rebel pocket of Aleppo, including 20 wounded.

A Syrian military source also told AFP the last evacuations could take place on Wednesday, but the process has been plagued by repeated holdups.