While the UN condemns Syrian and Russian "atrocities" in the battle over East Aleppo, which as noted previously was a key victory for the Assad regime in the past week, one which will end the stalemate and sway the balance of power in the ongoing war between regime forces and US-coalition armed rebels, little attention had been paid to the subversive tactics employed by such "moderate rebels" as the al Qaeda linked al-Nusra front.
That may change after five buses en route to evacuate the sick and injured from two government-held villages in Syria's Idlib province were attacked and burned by rebels.
MORE: According to reports, civilians had not yet gotten on the buses. They were on their way to pick them up when the attack happened.— Conflict News (@Conflicts) December 18, 2016
Five buses were attacked and burned by “armed terrorists” while en route to militant-held villages after an evacuation deal was struck between the Syrian government and rebels, Syrian state television has reported. According to Reuters, the deal was reached earlier on Sunday, citing al-Ikhbariya TV news. It will see the remaining militants and their families evacuated from east Aleppo in return for the evacuation of people in militant-held villages in Idlib province, al-Foua and Kafraya.
Syrian state television has reported that five buses were attacked and burned by “armed terrorists” while en route to al-Foua and Kefraya. However, most of them, as well as Red Crescent vehicles, reached the entrance to the villages, the report said.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported earlier that evacuation buses had entered the last militant-held district of eastern Aleppo, Ramousah, under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Cross. State television showed live footage of buses and a van bearing a Syrian Arab Red Crescent flag parked next to a highway intersection in Ramousah. Several large white cars marked with Red Crescent and Red Cross symbols also appeared in the footage.
As BBC adds, the convoy was traveling to Foah and Kefraya, besieged by rebel fighters. Pro-government forces have been demanding that people be allowed to leave the mainly Shia villages in order for the evacuation of east Aleppo to restart, with thousands of people waiting to leave in desperate conditions, reports say.
The initial plan to evacuate eastern Aleppo collapsed on Friday, leaving civilians stranded at various points along the route out without access to food or shelter.
Despite delays caused by disagreements over the new evacuation plan, convoys were said to be traveling to both eastern Aleppo and the government-held villages in Idlib province on Sunday. However, UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said six buses were attacked and torched on the way to Foah and Kefraya.
Jaish Fateh militants have set fire to several buses that were going towards Fuah-Kafraya in Idlib countryside pic.twitter.com/wud4CNQp1u— Hassan Ridha (@sayed_ridha) December 18, 2016
It had reported earlier that the "moderate rebel" group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, was preventing buses entering the villages.
As a reminder, earlier in the year, Jabhat Al-Nusra, rebranded itself Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, a cosmetic change which was apparently sufficient to convince the US government to brand them "moderates" and send them arms and equipment, equipment which today may have been used against innocent Syrian citizens.
Syrian state media said "armed terrorists" attacked five buses, burned and destroyed them.
More pics of the buses which were burned by militants near Sarmin south of Binnish, Idlib pic.twitter.com/by7g7wf5tP— Hassan Ridha (@sayed_ridha) December 18, 2016
Rebel groups have not yet commented on the attack. Subsequent to the attack, it was reported that more buses have been sent to Fuah-Kafraya to replace those that were burnt, although it was unclear if the "rebels" would allow them passage.
Meanwhile, later on Sunday, the United Nations Security Council is set to vote on a French-drafted resolution aimed at ensuring that UN officials can monitor the evacuations from Aleppo and the safety of the remaining civilians. Reuters reported that those evacuated on Thursday and Friday morning had been taken to rebel-held districts in the countryside west of Aleppo. As RT notes, a draft of the resolution “emphasizes that the evacuations of civilians must be voluntary and to final destinations of their choice, and protection must be provided to all civilians who choose or who have been forced to be evacuated and those who opt to remain in their homes.”
It was not immediately clear how Russia will vote. “If it is a sensible initiative and we see it on paper, why not entertain this initiative?” Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said on Friday.