Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has offered felicitations to the Arab nation on the liberation of Aleppo city from foreign-backed militants amid an ongoing mission to take out the remaining armed men and civilians from the embattled northwestern city.
In a video posted on the Syrian presidency’s official social media accounts, Assad said the “liberation” was “history in the making and worthy of more than the word ‘congratulations’.”
“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,” he added.
“I think that after the liberation of Aleppo we’ll talk about the situation as … before the liberation of Aleppo and after the liberation of Aleppo,” he said.
The message comes amid reports that a convoy of some two dozen vehicles came out of Aleppo’s al-Amiriyah district and crossed into the government-held Ramussa en route to the remaining militant-held territory in Aleppo Province’s west.
A Syrian official source said almost 1,000 people had left eastern Aleppo in the first convoy, comprising women, children and the wounded.
Later in the day, a second convoy of 15 buses left the countryside for government-held parts, according to Syrian state television.
He said 951 people, including 200 militants and 108 wounded made up the convoy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 21 buses and 19 ambulances carrying civilians and wounded have left eastern Aleppo.
Russia’s Defense ministry also announced that the first bus convoy meant to evacuate terrorists was leaving Aleppo’s east.
The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that efforts had started to pull out some 200 wounded people as part of a ceasefire deal.
Newly-released drone footage showed buses and ambulances moving into the besieged areas of the city.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the evacuation of 5,000 militants and their family members from eastern Aleppo has begun, the TASS news agency reported.
An unnamed Russian military official said the evacuations would be carried out through a 21-kilometer-long humanitarian corridor.
Aleppo battle ‘almost finished’
On Thursday, Russian Lieutenant-General Viktor Poznikhir told a news briefing on Syrian state television that the Aleppo battle has nearly come to an end.
The Russian official added that around 3,000 militants had left Aleppo since August, and that 108,000 civilians had been moved to safe parts of the city.
Separately, the UN Syria humanitarian advisor said most of the evacuees will go to Idlib Province and others may opt to go to neighboring Turkey.
Jan Egeland further estimated that the number of those who have recently fled eastern Aleppo stands at 50,000.
“Thousands of people are in need of evacuation, but the first and most urgent thing is wounded, sick and children, including orphans,” he added.
Elsewhere, the governor of Syria’s Hama Province told the official SANA news agency that vehicles were en route to Fua’a and Kafraya, two government-held villages under militant siege in Idlib Province, to evacuate sick and wounded residents.
“Twenty-nine buses and ambulances, and medical teams, have been sent to … Fua’a and Kafraya … to evacuate humanitarian cases and a number of families,” Mohamed al-Hazouri said.
The mission in the two villages also come as part of the ceasefire deal to evacuate eastern Aleppo.
Moreover, an unnamed Syrian source said that buses and ambulances were moving from the Qalaat al-Madiq area of Hama Province towards the two villages, adding that “1,200 injured and sick people and their families will be evacuated.”
The Syrian so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the evacuees from the besieged villages were expected to be taken to government-held Latakia Province.
Militant rockets hit govt.-controlled part of Aleppo
Meanwhile, Syrian state-run Ikhbariya television reported that terrorists had shelled a government-controlled part of Aleppo with rocket fire.
The Syrian army soldiers and their allies have recently dealt heavy blows to militants in Aleppo, with Syrian state TV saying that the Damascus forces are now in control of 99 percent of the strategic city.
The Syrian troops are supported by a Russia aerial campaign against terrorists.
Russia’s RIA news agency quoted the Defense Ministry as saying that more than 2,000 militants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have been killed in Syria in the past year.
First convoy of evacuees reach al-Rashideen town
Later on Thursday, Syrian state television reported that the first convoy of evacuees from militant-held areas of eastern Aleppo had reached the town of al-Rashideen, which is still under control of militants.
“Red Crescent vehicles carrying the wounded have arrived, and the wounded will be transferred to… nearby hospitals for treatment,” said Ahmad al-Dbis, who heads the unit of doctors and other volunteers coordinating the evacuation of wounded people, AFP reported.
Larijani: Aleppo win heralds more victories
On Thursday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani offered felicitations to his Syrian counterpart, Hadiyeh Khalaf Abbas, as well as the Arab nation and government on the victories in Aleppo.
The top Iranian parliamentarian described the triumph as a “critical juncture” in the Arab nation’s fight against Takfiri terror groups and their foreign sponsors.
“This achievement would undoubtedly serve as a prelude to greater victories against terrorism and extremism in the region,” Larijani said.
Hezbollah lauds Aleppo victory
The Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement hailed the Syrian army’s victory over terrorists in Aleppo.
Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah described Aleppo’s recapture as a “critical accomplishment,” saying the “achievement exposed the size of the international conspiracy to divide Syria at the expense of the Syrian people.”
Aleppo triumph draws Saudi ire
Irked by Syria’s recapture of Aleppo, the Saudi ambassador to Egypt and the kingdom’s permanent representative to the Arab League, reiterated his country’s support for militants fighting against the Damascus government.
Ahmad bin Abdulaziz Qattan said on Thursday that Riyadh will continue to shore up the militants until the administration of President Assad is ousted.
Qattan also called for an emergency UN meeting over the situation in Aleppo.