UN Security Council to vote on Aleppo evacuation
The draft text emphasizes that the evacuations of civilians must be voluntary and to final destinations of their choice
The United Nations Security Council is due to vote Sunday on a French-drafted resolution aimed at ensuring that UN officials can monitor evacuations from besieged parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo and the protection of civilians who remain.
The draft text also “emphasizes that the evacuations of civilians must be voluntary and to final destinations of their choice, and protection must be provided to all civilians who choose or who have been forced to be evacuated and those who opt to remain in their homes.”
A vote has been scheduled for Sunday morning, diplomats said. The evacuation of rebel-held areas of east Aleppo ground to a halt on Friday after demands from pro-government forces that people also be moved out of two Shiite villages besieged by insurgents.
It was not immediately clear how Russia would vote on the French drafted UN resolution. Before the draft was circulated to the council, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Friday: “If it is a sensible initiative and we see it on paper, why not entertain this initiative?”
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The draft resolution asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to “redeploy the United Nations humanitarian staff already on the ground to carry out adequate, neutral monitoring, direct observation and to report on evacuations from besieged parts of Aleppo and protection of civilians inside Aleppo.”
It asks Ban to deploy further staff if needed and demands that all parties provide the monitors with safe, immediate and unimpeded access. The draft also “demands that all parties allow complete, immediate, unconditional, safe and unhindered access for the United Nations and its implementing partners” through the most direct route throughout Syria. It asks the UN secretary-general to report back to the council on implementation of the resolution within five days of adoption.
Coalition strikes near Palmyra killed 38
Meanwhile, at least 38 ISIS militants have been killed in US-led coalition air strikes this week near Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, a monitor said on Saturday. The militants retook Palmyra in central Syria on December 11, just eight months after the army backed by Russia drove them out.
On Thursday, US-led coalition aircraft destroyed heavy weaponry seized by the jihadists when they retook the city, the coalition said. A statement on Friday said the strikes destroyed an air defense artillery system, 14 tanks, three artillery systems, two ISIS-held buildings and two tactical vehicles.
Among the Russian weaponry IS captured around Palmyra were thought to be modern surface-to-air missiles, or SAMs, giving militants the potential capability to shoot down aircraft, a coalition official told AFP.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, said that “at least 38 ISIS members were killed in the air strikes”. The strikes, near the Tiyas military air base northeast of Palmyra, helped regime forces gain some ground west of the fabled city, said the Observatory.