Speed Reads

Fall of Aleppo

Aleppo evacuations in limbo as U.N. Security Council readies vote on monitoring of exodus

On Sunday night, after three hours of negotiations, Russia and Western powers on the United Nations Security Council agreed on a resolution to authorize U.N. monitoring of the evacuation of civilians and opposition fighters from eastern Aleppo. "We expect to vote unanimously for this text tomorrow at 9 a.m." New York time, said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. France had proposed the draft resolution Sunday, but Russia threatened to kill it with a veto — as it has with six other Syria conflict resolutions — as written.

"We had intense negotiations," said France's U.N. ambassador, François Delattre, explaining that the vote was delayed until Monday morning to give diplomats time to consult with their unidentified governments. The text of the compromise measure was not released, but the Russians reportedly insisted that the U.N. and international monitors consult with all parties in the conflict before deploying monitoring teams already in the country. "A requirement to consult and coordinate with Syria's government and involved parties — such as Russia, Iran, and Shiite militia groups — leaves open the possibility that any of those parties could deny the monitors access," The Wall Street Journal notes.

Evacuations of eastern Aleppo started Thursday under the terms of a ceasefire negotiated between Turkey and Russia, then stalled early Friday as one of the evacuating buses came under fire and militias aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insisted on reciprocal evacuations of two Shiite towns besieged by rebel forces, Foah and Kefraya. Evacuations began again Sunday but were halted once more when five buses on their way to Foah and Kefraya were torched; some reports blamed the anti-Assad group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly called the Nusra Front, for the bus attack, but Lebanese militias fighting alongside the Syrian army said the buses caught fire in fighting between two Islamist groups, including Fatah al-Sham.

The moderate Free Syrian Army condemned the bus fires as a "reckless act endangering the lives of nearly 50,000 people" in eastern Aleppo. Late Sunday, five buses from Aleppo were allowed to leave for rebel-held areas after being held for hours in response to the Foah and Kefraya bus attack.