Iran-backed militias block Aleppo evacuation as shelling resumes

The Guardian reports: Iran-backed militias are preventing civilians and opposition fighters from leaving the besieged districts of east Aleppo as Russia struggles to convince the Assad government and allied militants to abide by a ceasefire agreement.

Shelling of the besieged districts resumed on Wednesday morning despite the agreement brokered by Turkish intelligence and the Russian military on Tuesday that would have offered a respite to tens of thousands of trapped civilians.

It was unclear on Wednesday when residents would be allowed to leave east Aleppo and whether the deal would hold. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu agency quoted the head of the Turkish Red Crescent as saying nearly 1,000 people from east Aleppo were being held at an Iranian militia checkpoint.

Rebels inside east Aleppo said they would support the agreement but Iranian-backed militias on the ground, which led the assault into east Aleppo, were blocking it because the deal was reached without Assad or Iran’s involvement.

“The sectarian militias want to resume the massacre in Aleppo and the world has to act to prevent this sectarian slaughter led by Iran,” said Bassam Mustafa, a member of the political council of Noureddine Zinki, one of the main rebel groups in east Aleppo. “The opposition will continue to abide by the agreement.”

Yasser al-Youssef, a spokesman for the group, said Russia was attempting to convince the Assad government to accept the ceasefire. The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said discussions were ongoing with Russia and Iran to continue the planned evacuations. [Continue reading…]

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