Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to assist in evacuating the remaining rebel fighters and their families trapped in eastern Aleppo, according to the state news agency TASS.
A statement from the Russian Reconciliation Center, which oversees ceasefire deals in Syria, says the evacuation will take place today, involving 20 buses and 10 ambulances, which will carry those leaving towards Idlib, a province still in opposition hands.
The statements says Russia and the Syrian government will guarantee the safety of those evacuating and that the wounded will be accompanied by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Center said that those representatives will be escorted by a Russian officer.
An attempt to evacuate around 5,000 fighters on Wednesday collapsed after fresh shelling and gunfire broke out, with forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad pounding the less than mile-wide strip of territory where rebels are cornered after Assad’s forces retook the city this week.
Turkey accused government forces of breaking the ceasefire that was agreed on to allow the evacuation, while Russia claimed rebel fighters had tried to break out of the city but had been driven back.
Rebel groups said on Wednesday night that the ceasefire had now been re-established and that a new evacuation could begin “within hours,” Reuters reported.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was ready to assist.
Doubts remain over whether all the pro-government parties can remain united in accepting the ceasefire and withdrawal.
Before Putin’s order, Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed group whose fighters have played a key role in assisting the Syrian army’s retaking of Aleppo, questioned whether the evacuation was possible.
“The negotiations are seeing big complications, in light of tension and operations on the front lines,” the group’s media unit said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Tens of thousands of people have fled Aleppo in the past three weeks as the Syrian government advanced into the shattered remnants of the city’s east, which had been held by rebels since 2012 and has endured years of fighting.
Rebel-held areas of the city have been encircled by pro-government forces since July, who have laid siege on their territory, leaving tens of thousands of civilians trapped with sporadic access to basic necessities like water, electricity and medical services.
A successful evacuation today would mark a final end to the battle for the city and cap one of the most significant victories for the Assad regime in years, leaving it in a significantly strengthened position in Syria’s 5-year-old civil war.