UN Security Council votes on sending observers to Aleppo

The UN Security Council will vote on Sunday on whether to send observers to the stricken Syrian city of Aleppo.

France has proposed that officials should monitor evacuation efforts and report on the protection of civilians.

Many residents remain trapped in the city’s east in freezing and dangerous conditions, waiting to be rescued.

A plan to evacuate civilians collapsed on Friday, but reports say that the two sides are close to reaching a new agreement.

Mounir Hakimi, chair of Syrian Relief, said on Sunday the charity was waiting on the Syria-Turkey border to receive civilians.

We’re waiting for the agreement to re-establish again,” he said. “The news I have this morning is that an agreement has been reached six hours ago and the team is getting ready.”

There are concerns that the UN motion on observers may be resisted by Russia, an ally of Syria’s president and a veto-wielding Security Council member.

Moscow has vetoed six resolutions on Syria since the conflict began in 2011.

France circulated a draft text late on Friday stating that the council is “alarmed” by the worsening humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, where “tens of thousands” are in peril.

At least 6,000 people left east Aleppo under a fragile truce on Thursday but the operation was halted a day later.

The besieged city has seen rapid government advances in recent weeks. On Saturday, various government and rebel sources said that a new evacuation deal had been reached, but nothing has been announced officially and no evacuations have yet begun.

Aleppo’s convoys will only start moving again when Shia civilians are allowed out of the pro-government towns of Foah and Kefraya.

Fifty buses have moved to the towns in anticipation, and more are gathering at the Ramousseh crossing outside Aleppo.

The draft resolution asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to redeploy UN humanitarian staff already in Syria “to carry out adequate, neutral monitoring … and to report on evacuations from besieged parts of Aleppo and protection of civilians“.

The UN chief would report to the council within five days on whether the Syrian government had granted the observers access.

The resolution also demands the protection of all doctors, hospitals and ambulances, after reports that Syrian forces had bombed all the medical facilities in Aleppo.

The text specifically mentions the border hospitals of Atmeh, Darkoush, Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salamah, where many of the evacuees would be taken.

The UN’s children’s charity Unicef says sick and wounded children are among the evacuees from east Aleppo, some of whom left without their parents.

However, hundreds of other vulnerable children, including orphans, remain trapped inside that part of the city,” it added.

We are extremely concerned about their fate. If these children are not evacuated urgently, they could die.”

Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a teacher who is also still in east Aleppo with his young daughter, said on phone that he did not want to leave his home and city but believed he had no choice.

The weather is so cold,” he said. “Some people have been here since 09:00 yesterday (07:00 GMT on Friday) and the children are so hungry they are crying”. They are freezing. Most of them here are scared of a brutal end to the ceasefire.

They are afraid that they will not be able to get out. This is the feeling of most people here.”

Reuters/Hauwa M.