The UN Security Council unanimously called for UN officials and others to observe the evacuation of people from the last rebel-held enclave in Aleppo and monitor the safety of civilians who remain in the Syrian city. Half of Syria's 22 million people have been uprooted and more than 400,000 killed.
47 Children Leave Aleppo Orphanage,
Some in Critical Shape: UN Stephanie Nebehay / Reuters
GENEVA (December 19, 2016) - Nearly 50 children who were trapped in an orphanage in the rebel-held Syrian enclave of east Aleppo were evacuated on Monday, some critically injured or dehydrated, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) evacuated the orphans from eastern Aleppo, along with facility staff who have been caring for them, ICRC spokeswoman Krista Armstrong said.
"They were given priority and were the first to be evacuated by bus when the operation resumed," Armstrong said, adding that she could not provide an exact figure yet.
Earlier, Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director, said in a statement that all 47 children trapped in the orphanage were evacuated to safety, "with some in critical condition from injuries and dehydration".
UNICEF and other agencies were also assisting in reunifying other children evacuated in the past few days with their families and giving them medical care and winter clothes, he said.
ISTANBUL (December 19, 2016) -- A seven-year-old Syrian girl who captured global attention with her Twitter updates from besieged Aleppo has been evacuated and will be brought to Turkey with her family, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
Helped by her mother Fatemah, who manages the @AlabedBana account, Bana Alabed has uploaded pictures and videos of life during the nearly six-year-old Syrian war, gaining around 331,000 followers on the micro-blogging site since September.
Last week, mother and daughter shared a video of themselves asking US First Lady Michelle Obama for help in reaching a safe place after advances by the Syrian army and allied Shi'ite Muslim militias into rebel-held eastern parts of the city.
A ceasefire and evacuation deal was agreed last Tuesday but thousands of people have struggled to leave due to hold-ups.
"This morning @AlabedBana was also rescued from #Aleppo with her family. We warmly welcomed them," Turkish aid agency IHH wrote on Twitter on Monday with a picture of the smiling young girl alongside an aid worker.
Cavusoglu, who had replied to Bana last week on Twitter, said on Monday Bana and her family would be brought to Turkey.
Speaking to the pro-opposition Qasioun news agency in al-Rashideen on the southwest edge of Aleppo, Fatemah said in English: "I am sad because I leave my country, I leave my soul there . . . We can't stay there because there are a lot of bombs, and no clean water, no medicine.
"When we get out, we had a lot of suffering because we stayed almost 24 hours in bus without water and food or anything," she continued. "We stayed like a prisoner, a hostage but finally we arrived here."
An operation to bring thousands of people out of the last rebel-held enclave of Aleppo was under way again on Monday after being delayed for several days, together with the evacuation of two besieged pro-government villages in nearby Idlib province.
UNITED NATIONS (December 19, 2016) -- The United Nations Security Council on Monday unanimously called for UN officials and others to observe the evacuation of people from the last rebel-held enclave in Aleppo and monitor the safety of civilians who remain in the Syrian city.
The 15-member council overcame long-held divisions - that have pitted Syrian ally Russia and China against Western powers over the Syrian conflict - to adopt a French-drafted resolution calling for UN officials and others "to carry out adequate, neutral monitoring and direct observation on evacuations."
The recapture of Aleppo -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's biggest victory in the nearly six-year-old war -- has left thousands of people stuck in the last rebel bastion in the city's east amid accusations by the United Nations and Western powers of atrocities against civilians by pro-government forces. UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura announced on Monday he intended to convene peace talks in Geneva on Feb. 8.
Thousands of people were evacuated from eastern Aleppo on Monday. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said it was hoped the presence of monitors would deter crimes against civilians as they leave Aleppo or against those who choose to stay in the city. "Of course the Syrian government doesn't want more monitors," Power said. "If you're doing bad things you don't want monitors around to watch you doing them."
The United Nations said it has more than 100 people -- mainly Syrian national staff -- ready to monitor alongside officials from the International Committee for the Red Cross.
"We stand ready to scale up our presence and efforts across the entire city . . . This can be done immediately, but only if the parties live up to this resolution and their most basic legal obligations," UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien said.
The Security Council reached consensus on a text on Sunday after several hours of negotiations. Russia had planned to veto the original French draft over concerns about sending UN monitors unprepared into "the ruins of eastern Aleppo," UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.
Russia wanted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to arrange security for UN monitors to enter eastern Aleppo "in coordination" with interested parties, meaning the Syrian government. The council agreed that such arrangements would be made "in consultation" with interested parties. "We keep contact with our Syrian colleagues here all the time . . . they did not raise any serious objections to what we delivered," Churkin told reporters ahead of the vote.
Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said the adopted resolution was already "part of our continued daily efforts," but he also described it as "just another part of the continued propaganda against Syria and its fight against terrorists" - a term it uses for all groups fighting Assad. "The last terrorists in some districts of the eastern part of Aleppo are evacuating their strongholds and Aleppo this evening will be clean," he told reporters.
Russia, which has provided military backing to Assad's troops, has vetoed six Security Council resolutions on Syria since the conflict started in 2011. China joined Moscow in vetoing five resolutions. Monday's resolution "demands all parties to provide these monitors with safe, immediate and unimpeded access."
Unlike previous heated Security Council meetings on Syria, no members spoke in the council chamber after the vote.
Despite the government's recapture of Aleppo, the fighting in Syria is by no means over, with large tracts of the country still under the control of insurgent and Islamist groups.
A crackdown by Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war and Islamic State militants have used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq. Half of Syria's 22 million people have been uprooted and more than 400,000 killed.
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