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Tens of thousands of civilians are anxiously waiting to leave eastern Aleppo after a new deal was reached between rebel fighters and the Syrian regime.
Al-Farouq Abu Bakr, a rebel negotiator based in eastern Aleppo, told Al Jazeera that the deal, brokered late on Saturday, would allow for the transfer of tens of thousands of Syrians from besieged areas across the country.
The deal come days after the Syrian government claimed victory in Aleppo, which had been partly under rebel control since 2012.
“An agreement was reached to evacuate pro-regime loyalists from the [Shia majority] towns of Fua and Kefraya in Idlib province. This will allow evacuations from east Aleppo to resume within the next few hours,” Bakr said.
“A number of civilians will also be evacuated from the besieged cities of Madaya and Zabadani as part of the deal. In the next few hours, we will see the agreement taking effect.”
According to the UN, more than four million people live in besieged or hard-to-reach areas in Syria, with limited or no access to food or medical supplies.
A correspondent for Syrian state TV said on Saturday that the main condition for the Aleppo evacuation to resume was for residents of Fua and Kefraya to be allowed to leave.
The evacuation of eastern Aleppo was suspended on Friday after rebels and government forces accused each other of violating an earlier deal.
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Mohammed Shakiel Shabir, an aid worker based in rebel-held Idlib province, said approximately 100 coaches were being prepared to collect the civilians from Khan al-Asl, a suburb of Aleppo city.
“We are taking several ambulances, food and medicines and approximately 100 coaches to Khan al-Asl,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Each coach can transport around 40 people so [God willing] we will be transferring thousands to safety.”
Reports differ on how many people remain in eastern Aleppo, with numbers ranging from 15,000 to 40,000 civilians, along with an estimated 6,000 fighters.
Al Jazeera’s Amro Halabi, reporting from eastern Aleppo, said tens of thousands of people were still trapped inside opposition-controlled areas and were too scared to leave the besieged districts.
“Now, the people are afraid and they are running away from the meeting point where they were supposed to gather in order to take the buses out of the besieged east Aleppo districts. They are in a state of horror and shock,” he said.
The UN Security Council is to expected to discuss the possible deployment of observers to Aleppo later on Sunday and vote on a resolution demanding immediate and unconditional access for UN staff to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.
According to several UN delegations on Twitter, the Council will meet for a special session at 12:00GMT on a French-drafted resolution.
The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, calls on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately redeploy UN staff already on the ground to carry out “neutral monitoring” and “direct observation and to report on evacuations.”
It stresses that evacuations of civilians “must be voluntary and to destinations of their choice”.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN Ambassador, said on Friday he would examine the draft but was skeptical that monitors could be deployed quickly.
Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city and once a key cultural and economic hub, has been divided between government forces and rebels since 2012.
The evacuation agreements came a month after the Syrian government and allied militias launched a military offensive to retake the entire city. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has hailed the operation as a victory.
The Syrian conflict started as a largely unarmed uprising against Assad’s rule in March 2011. It has since morphed into a full-scale civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead and more than half of the country’s prewar population displaced inside and outside of Syria.