Ten buses carrying civilians from two Shiite villages besieged by rebels in northern Syria are on their way to government-controlled areas, a Syrian activist group and a Lebanon-based TV station have said.
The evacuations from Foua and Kfarya were conditions which were added to a ceasefire deal that paved the way for the last rebels and civilians to depart from the remainder of the rebel enclave in the eastern half of the Syrian city of Aleppo.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the pan-Arab Al-Mayadeen TV said the buses left Foua and Kfarya on Monday. More than 2,000 sick and wounded people are supposed to leave the villages.
The evacuation came a day after militants burned six buses assigned to the villages’ evacuations.
The Observatory reported shortly before midnight on Sunday that government forces allowed five buses to leave rebel-held parts of east Aleppo.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is expected to vote on a resolution aimed at immediately deploying United Nations monitors to eastern Aleppo, a move France has said will be critical to prevent “mass atrocities” by Syrian forces, and especially militias, who captured the rebel stronghold.
The text calls for the UN and other institutions to monitor the evacuations and demands that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urgently consult all parties on the immediate deployment of the monitors.
France’s UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, told reporters the compromise was reached after more than three hours of closed consultations on Sunday and the Security Council would vote on the resolution at 9am New York time on Monday.
He said some countries wanted to report to their capitals overnight and he hoped for a positive vote, but remained cautious.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters before the consultations that Moscow could not accept the French draft resolution unless it was changed and presented council members with a rival text.
After the consultations, Mr Churkin said a “good text” had been formulated.
US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the resolution would quickly put more than 100 UN staff on the ground to monitor evacuations.
“The text contains all the elements for safe, secure, dignified evacuation, for humanitarian access to those who choose to remain in eastern Aleppo” and for protecting civilians, she said.
She said that following the siege in eastern Aleppo, there have been “many, many reports of people being pulled off buses and disappeared, whether into conscription or into torture chambers or killed outright”. Deploying UN monitors would deter “some of the worst excesses”, she said.
Mr Delattre agreed, saying approval of the resolution “would give us collectively the tools to avoid a situation in which, after the end of major military operations, forces including militias, would commit mass atrocities”.
He said the resolution could also offer leverage to negotiate a broader ceasefire.