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U.N. boosting Aleppo monitoring after Security Council vote
December 20, 2016 / 11:16 AM / 10 months ago

U.N. boosting Aleppo monitoring after Security Council vote

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Syrian government has authorised the United Nations to send an additional 20 staff to east Aleppo, where they will monitor the continuing evacuation of thousands of people, a U.N. spokesman said on Tuesday.

“The task that has been given and mandated by the Security Council is to monitor and observe the evacuations,” Jens Laerke told a news briefing in Geneva.

The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously called for U.N. officials and others to observe the evacuation of people from the last rebel-held enclave in Aleppo and monitor the safety of civilians who remain in the Syrian city.

The U.N. staff, composed of national and international staff already in its Damascus office, will travel to Aleppo “as soon as possible”, reinforcing a small U.N. monitoring team already at al-Ramousah crossing, Laerke said.

“We do not know exactly how many people remain in the besieged enclave. However the goal is clearly that everyone who needs to get out and expressed a wish to get out can do so safely and in dignity.”

Some 25,000 people have been evacuated from the rebel-held enclave since Thursday, including 15,000 on Monday and 10,000 last Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

They included 14 wounded evacuated overnight, ICRC spokeswoman Krista Armstrong said. “People leaving are mostly women, children and the elderly; clearly, most are civilians.”

Laerke said that U.N. aid partners had counted 19,000 people arriving in Idlib province. Others have gone to opposition-held parts of rural western Aleppo.

“We do not have independent U.N. access to the buses, so we’ve not been able to enter and talk to people; that does not take away from the protection concerns that we do have and continue to have,” he added.

Some 43 people were medically evacuated from east Aleppo on Monday, bringing the total to 301 since last Thursday, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

“Out of those 301, 93 patients were referred to hospitals in Turkey, others are in hospitals in Idlib and (opposition-held) western rural Aleppo,” he said.

The vast majority have trauma injuries, and the sick and wounded include 67 children, he added.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said there was no sign of a heavy influx of people fleeing Aleppo into neighbouring Turkey.

“All the borders of Syria are very tightly managed at present. People, we understand, are being allowed to cross into Turkey when they come. But I think this is speculative as we are not yet seeing people move across in relation to what’s happening in Aleppo,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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