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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hails taking of Aleppo as 'historic'; evacuation of civilians underway

Operation to evacuate thousands of civilians and fighters from the last rebel bastion in Aleppo began on Thursday.


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hails taking of Aleppo as 'historic'; evacuation of civilians underway
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Beirut: Even as an operation to evacuate thousands of civilians and fighters from the last rebel bastion in Aleppo began on Thursday, part of a ceasefire deal that would end years of fighting for the city, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the world would be different after what he called the "liberation of Aleppo", describing it as a historic moment.

"What is happening today is the writing of a history written by every Syrian citizen. The writing did not start today, it started six years ago when the crisis and war started against Syria," Assad said in a video statement published on the Syrian presidency`s Twitter account. 

Talking about events in Aleppo, Assad alluded to major moments in history including the birth of Jesus Christ, the revelations to the Prophet Muhammad and the fall of the Soviet Union. 

"History is not the same before and after ... I think after liberating Aleppo we will say that not only the Syrian situation, but also the regional and international situation, is different. This history that is being made now is bigger than the word `congratulations`. Everybody is saying congratulations now," as per Reuters.

Aleppo rebel evacuation under way after ceasefire deal

A convoy of ambulances and buses with nearly 1,000 people aboard drove out of the devastated rebel-held area of Aleppo, which was besieged and bombarded for months by Syrian government forces, a Reuters reporter on the scene said.

Women cried out in celebration as the buses passed through a government-held area, and some waved the Syrian flag.

An elderly woman, who had gathered with others in a government area to watch the convoy set off, raised her hands to the sky, saying, "God save us from this crisis, and from the (militants). They brought us only destruction."

Wissam Zarqa, an English teacher in the rebel zone, said most people were happy to be leaving safely. But he said, "Some of them are angry they are leaving their city. I saw some of them crying. This is almost my feeling in a way."

"Thousands of people are in need of evacuation, but the first and most urgent thing is wounded, sick and children, including orphans," said Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian adviser for Syria.

Turkey is considering establishing a camp in Syria for civilians being evacuated from Aleppo and the number of people brought out of the city could reach 100,000, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said.

Rebels and their families would be taken towards Idlib, a city in northwestern Syria which is outside government control, the Russian defence ministry said.

Idlib province, mostly controlled by hardline Islamist groups, is not a popular destination for fighters and civilians from east Aleppo, where nationalist rebel groups predominated.

Idlib is already a target for Syrian and Russian air strikes but it is unclear if the government will push for a ground assault or simply seek to contain rebels there for now.

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.

(With Agency inputs)

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