READ MORE: Why the recapture of Aleppo could be a key moment in Syria’s bloody civil war But Abdul Salam Abdul Razak, a military spokesman for the Nour al-Din al Zinki rebel group, said late on Wednesday that a new agreement had been reached which included those villages in Idlib province. “Within the coming hours its implementation will begin,” he told Reuters.WATCH: Syrian activist posts video allegedly showing aftermath of missile strike on his building
A total of 15,000 people, including 4,000 rebel fighters, wanted to leave Aleppo, according to a media unit run by the Syrian government’s ally Hezbollah.The evacuation plan was the culmination of two weeks of rapid advances by the Syrian army and its allies that drove insurgents back into an ever-smaller pocket of the city under intense air strikes and artillery fire.
By taking full control of Aleppo, Assad has proved the power of his military coalition, aided by Russia’s air force and an array of Shi’ite militias from across the region.
Rebels have been supported by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies, but the support they have enjoyed has fallen far short of the direct military backing given to Assad by Russia and Iran.
Russia’s decision to deploy its air force to Syria 18 months ago turned the war in Assad’s favor after rebel advances across western Syria. In addition to Aleppo, he has won back insurgent strongholds near Damascus this year.
The government and its allies have focused the bulk of their firepower on fighting rebels in western Syria rather than Islamic State, which this week managed to take back the ancient city of Palmyra, once again illustrating the challenge Assad faces reestablishing control over all Syria.
FEAR STALKS STREETS
As the battle for Aleppo unfolded, global concern has risen over the plight of the 250,000 civilians who were thought to remain in its rebel-held eastern sector before the sudden army advance began at the end of November.
The rout of rebels in Aleppo sparked a mass flight of terrified civilians and insurgents in bitter weather, a crisis the United Nations said was a “complete meltdown of humanity”. There were food and water shortages in rebel areas, with all hospitals closed.
On Tuesday, the United Nations voiced deep concern about reports it had received of Syrian soldiers and allied Iraqi fighters summarily shooting dead 82 people in recaptured east Aleppo districts. It accused them of “slaughter”.
The Syrian army has denied carrying out killings or torture among those captured, and Russia said on Tuesday rebels had “kept over 100,000 people in east Aleppo as human shields”.
Fear stalked the city’s streets. Some survivors trudged in the rain past dead bodies to the government-held west or the few districts still in rebel hands. Others stayed in their homes and awaited the Syrian army’s arrival.