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Aleppo battle: Hundreds leave Syria city as evacuations resume

Evacuations have resumed from east Aleppo, with buses and ambulances leaving rebel areas of the Syrian city, a UN official says.

Buses drive through the Syrian government-controlled crossing of Ramoussah, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo, on 18 December 2016

At least 350 people reportedly left rebel enclaves in convoys late on Sunday, towards government territory.

Earlier, buses sent to take people out of government-controlled areas, besieged by rebels, were set alight, halting the latest evacuation deal.

Thousands are waiting to leave east Aleppo in desperate conditions.

The UN Security Council is said to have agreed a compromise to allow UN monitoring of the operation. Russia earlier rejected a French-drafted plan to send UN officials to east Aleppo as "a disaster".

"We expect to vote unanimously for this text," said US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power.

The Security Council meeting is due to start at 09:00 (14:00 GMT) in New York.

Initial efforts to evacuate the last rebel-held enclaves in the city collapsed on Friday, leaving civilians stranded at various points along the route out without access to food or shelter. Bombardment of east Aleppo has left it virtually without medical facilities.

Despite further setbacks on Sunday, buses and ambulances began moving out of the area after nightfall.

"Evacuations are on," the UN official said in an email message to Reuters news agency, adding that the first people left east Aleppo at around 23:00 local time (21:00 GMT).

Five buses carrying evacuees arrived in rebel-held Khan al-Assal, AFP news agency quoted Ahmad al-Dbis, who heads a team of doctors coordinating evacuations to the town, as saying.

From Khan al-Assal, the evacuees are expected to travel to government held parts of Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

Pro-government forces previously demanded that people must be allowed to leave the mainly Shia villages of Foah and Kefraya in Idlib province, besieged by rebels, in order for the evacuation of east Aleppo to restart.

Some 1,200 people were due to be taken out of the former rebel enclave in return for a similar number moved out of the two government-held villages, Foah and Kefraya.

However, it is not thought any of the some 2,000 people believed to live in the two villages left on Sunday.

Earlier on Sunday, armed men set fire to at least five buses that were about to transport the sick and injured from the villages.

Several reports said the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham rebel group, formerly al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, was responsible. But Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group fighting alongside Syria's government, said the blaze started during fighting between the jihadist Fatah al-Sham and another Islamist rebel group that supported the evacuations.

The jihadist groups have not commented on the attack.

However, the Free Syrian Army, a more moderate rebel faction, condemned it as a "reckless act endangering the lives of nearly 50,000 people" in east Aleppo.

Among the people waiting to leave eastern Aleppo are sick and wounded children, said the children's charity Unicef.

Some young children have been forced to leave without their parents, the charity said, and hundreds of vulnerable children remain trapped.

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38360213

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