December 15, 2016 / 12:44 PM / 3 years ago

Reuters witness: evacuation begins from rebel-held Aleppo area

A still image from footage released by Russia's Defence Ministry on December 15, 2016, shows what the Defence Ministry said was the eastern quarters of Aleppo during evacuation of rebels and their family members, Syria. Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS

ALEPPO, Syria (Reuters) - At least 17 buses and 10 ambulances drove out of the rebel-held part of Aleppo on Thursday, a Reuters reporter in the city said, carrying people being evacuated as part of a ceasefire deal.

Syrian state TV showed the convoy of ambulances followed by a long line of green buses driving from the Ramousah district next to the rebel-held area of Aleppo, which has been besieged for months by Syrian government forces and their allies.

State television reported that those leaving in the convoy were opposition fighters. Rebel officials have said that civilians who wish to leave will also be able to do so as part of the ceasefire and evacuation deal.

Footage of the buses leaving appeared to show that most of those standing or sitting inside were young men.

Five cars carrying International Committee of the Red Cross flags drove ahead of the convoy, in which the ambulances carried Red Crescent flags.

The ceasefire and evacuation will end years of fighting in Aleppo between the Syrian government and allied Shi’ite militia, and mostly Sunni rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad after revolting in 2011 during the Arab uprisings.

By fully retaking control of Aleppo, which was Syria’s largest city before the war, Assad will secure the biggest battlefield victory of the conflict, pushing rebels out of their biggest urban stronghold.

Reporting By Laila Bassam in Aleppo; Writing Angus McDowall and Samia Nakhoul

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