The International Red Cross and other humanitarian groups say as many as 2,000 desperate civilians were evacuated from the Syrian city of Aleppo Thursday, including many wounded.
Convoys of ambulances and green buses pulled away from the devastated city, which was a crown jewel of Muslim and Arab history and culture before the Syrian civil war turned it into a ruin.
The buses left eastern Aleppo and went into government-held territory before eventually making it to another rebel-held part of the province.
Some of the evacuated civilians praised Allah for saving them even as they left behind the bodies of friends and relatives under slabs of concrete that used to be schools, homes, and stores.
Syrian rebels and government forces agreed to a three-day cease-fire to let civilians leave. Previous cease-fires collapsed almost immediately, putting a halt to evacuation efforts.
Syrian rebels hold on to only a sliver of eastern Aleppo after Syrian forces, with Russian military support, began their push to retake the city. President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday that history would be made with what he referred to as the “liberation of Aleppo.”
“What is happening today is the writing of a history written by every Syrian citizen. The writing did not start today. It started six years ago when the crisis and war started against Syria,” Assad said in a video posted to his official Twitter account.
Assad likened his government’s recapture of Aleppo to other historical events, including the birth of Jesus Christ and the fall of the Soviet Union, and said history would be permanently altered.
In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry was not talking about history Thursday but of what he calls a massacre by the Assad regime.
“We have witnessed indiscriminate slaughter, not accidents of war, not collateral damage, but frankly purposeful, cynical policy of terrorizing civilians.”
Kerry said the United States is going to work to save lives and continue pushing all parties in Syria toward a resolution and allow full access by humanitarian groups throughout all of Syria.
“We believe this is a moment where the Syrian regime and the Russian military have an opportunity to make the decision to, a strategic decision I might add, for peace.”