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Cease-fire deal reached in Aleppo; Russian envoy says military ops finished

By Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware
Cease-fire deal reached in Aleppo; Russian envoy says military ops finished
Buildings are damaged and streets are empty in the Bustan al-Qasr and Kalasa neighborhoods in Aleppo, Syria, on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of civilians and rebels are expected to evacuate the city after rebels and the Syrian government reached a cease-fire agreement Tuesday. SANA handout/European Pressphoto Agency

ALEPPO, Syria, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Tuesday said a cease-fire has been reached in Aleppo to allow rebel fighters to flee the embattled city -- and that Syrian President Bashar Assad's government has retaken full control of the war-scarred city.

Churkin said only rebels will leave the city, though a rebel official said the estimated 50,000 people remaining in eastern Aleppo are expected to leave as well.

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Churkin said the cease-fire could come into effect "within hours."

"The latest information that we have received during the past hour or so is that military operations in eastern Aleppo have concluded," the Russian ambassador said, according to RT. "So, there is no issue of any ceasefire or special humanitarian operations. The Syrian government has regained control of the eastern Aleppo, so the stage of practical humanitarian actions begins."

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"Now it's going to be under the control of the Syrian government, so there is no need for the remaining civilians to leave and there are humanitarian arrangements in place," he added.

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A local official in eastern Aleppo said civilian evacuations would begin at 5 a.m. Wednesday. CNN reported Aleppo residents received cell phone messages from rebel leaders announcing the truce.

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The Aleppo Media Center said a cease-fire in Aleppo was announced "in preparation for the evacuation of civilians from besieged areas through safe passages."

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"Within hours, civilians and military factions will be evacuated from the besieged city to Aleppo's northern and western countryside," the media center said.

On Tuesday, the United Nations said there are reports forces allied to Assad have been killing civilians "on the spot" in a "complete meltdown of humanity" in Aleppo.

At least 1,134 people have been killed, mostly civilians including children, since Assad's regime intensified efforts to capture east Aleppo on Nov. 15, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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Churkin added that no one is "going to harm the civilians."

"The agreement is for the fighters to leave. The civilians, they can stay, they can go to safe places, they can take advantage of the humanitarian arrangements that are on the ground," Churkin said.

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