UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warned on Thursday that without a ceasefire or political agreement the rebel-stronghold of Idlib risked becoming a new Aleppo after the evacuation of thousands from the besieged city started.
The operation to evacuate civilians and fighters from Aleppo began on Thursday, part of a ceasefire deal that would end years of fighting for the city and mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking alongside French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, de Mistura said some 50,000 people were still in eastern Aleppo and, to ensure a smooth process, the United Nations needed to be given permission to send more observers to the city to guarantee there were no reprisals and that aid was distributed.
“There are about 50,000 people, including 40,000 civilians that will go to West Aleppo. For those we need to be present to ensure they aren't 'disturbed',” de Mistura said, referring to possible atrocities already carried out in recent days.
He said the remaining 10,000 were made up of between 1,500 to 5,000 fighters and their families, who would be evacuated to the northern city of Idlib.
“I don't know what will happen in Idlib, but if there is no ceasefire or political accord then it will become the next Aleppo,” he said.
De Mistura said there were “not enough” UN observers on the ground at present.
More Aleppo evacuees reach rebel territory
A wounded boy sits inside an ambulance as Syrian rebels and their families gather at the rebel-held al-Amiriyah neighbourhood as they wait to be evacuated to the government-controlled area of Ramoussa on the southern outskirts of the city on December 15, 2016. (AFP)
No future for Assad in Syria: UK Defense Minister
A man holds the hand of a boy as they flee deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria December 9, 2016