Evacuations from Aleppo were completed in the aftermath of the resurgent Syrian Army’s success in establishing complete control, even as the United Nations passed a resolution Wednesday to establish an independent panel to investigate possible war crimes in Syria.
The resolution passed in the General Assembly with 105 countries in favor, 15 against and 52 abstentions, aims to establish an impartial and independent mechanism to assist in investigation and prosecution in order to punish perpetrators of serious and heinous crimes committed in Syria since March 2011.
The mechanism is set to work with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2011, which has repeatedly suggested the intervention of the International Criminal Court, a move blocked by Russia and China.
“Calls upon all States, all parties to the conflict as well as civil society to cooperate fully with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to effectively fulfill their respective mandates and, in particular, to provide them with any information and documentation they may possess, as well as any other forms of assistance pertaining to their respective mandates,” the resolution reads.
Reports coming in through the week suggested difficulties in evacuations due to delays and lack of oversight promised by the U.N., but evacuation operations were said to be completed late Wednesday.
However, there were massive discrepancies in the numbers coming in. The U.K.-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that a total of 900 people were transferred from the villages to government-held parts of Aleppo during the week-long evacuation process. Media outlet CBS, citing the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that as many as 4,000 fighters were evacuated from Aleppo overnight, since Wednesday. An even bigger figure of 34,000 people, including both civilians and fighters, were supposedly evacuated, as suggested by Reuters, which cited the United Nations.
Syria’s former industrial and financial center, Aleppo, turned into an important battleground in 2012 when rebel forces launched an attack on the government. Split into two, the city’s eastern portion was under rebel control and the west was under President Bashar Assad’s regime.
As pro-government forces assisted by Russian airstrikes launched an offensive to recapture the city in 2016, the situation worsened in eastern Aleppo after airstrikes destroyed most of its hospitals, causing civilians to be trapped with dwindling food, water and medical supplies in the absence of a robust mechanism to deliver them humanitarian aid.
After the Assad government marked its biggest victory by regaining control of the city last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Christian supporters erupted in Christmas celebrations in the government-controlled western region of Aleppo, according to posts on social media.
Analysts suggest that Assad’s victory is not an indicator of any semblance of peace returning to the conflict-affected region as the number of Syrian rebels estimated to still be fighting in the country is around 150,000 and the migration to Idlib simply meaning a shifting of the battleground.
“Many of them have gone to Idlib, which could be in theory the next Aleppo,” U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said in Geneva, according to Reuters.
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