Scores of families leave besieged Aleppo under Russia-Damascus plan

BEIRUT More than 150 civilians, mostly women and children, left besieged eastern parts of Aleppo through a safety zone that Moscow and its Syrian ally say they have set up to evacuate people trapped in opposition-held areas.

Syrian state television on Saturday showed scores of mostly women gathered in a government-controlled area of the city, saying how conditions in rebel-held areas were difficult and chanting praise for Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Russia’s defence ministry said that 169 civilians had left since Thursday through three safety crossings. The ministry also said in a statement that 69 rebels had handed themselves in to the army.

Syrian state news agency SANA said 169 civilians, mostly women over the age of forty, had arrived at the Salah al Din checkpoint. There was no footage of people at the actual crossing and it was difficult to verify the information independently.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its Russian allies declared a joint humanitarian operation for the besieged area on Thursday, bombarding it with leaflets telling fighters to surrender and civilians to leave.

But the United Nations has raised misgivings about the plan and U.S. officials have suggested it may be an attempt to depopulate the city – the most important opposition

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