Russia claims Aleppo evacuations are ‘completed’

Smoke rises after rebel fighters launch a mortar shell on a residential neighborhood in western Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The government seized large swaths of the Aleppo enclave under rebel control since 2012 in the offensive that began last week. The fighting was most intense Monday near the dividing line between east and west Aleppo as government and allied troops push their way from the eastern flank, reaching within less than a kilometer, about half a mile, from the citadel that anchors the center of the city. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

BEIRUT (AP) — Russia is claiming that all women and children have been taken out of eastern Aleppo and that a final sweep by the Syrian military is underway to clear out the last remaining rebels in the city — though there is no evidence on the ground of this.

A statement on Friday from the Russian military’s Center for Reconciliation in Syria says the evacuations have been “completed.” It came shortly after the Syrian government said it was suspending the evacuations because a convoy leaving Aleppo was fired on by the rebels.

The U.N. and international aid agencies insist there are still people in eastern Aleppo waiting to be evacuated.

The Russian statement claims Russia said that over 9,500 people, including more than 4,500 rebels and 337 wounded, have been taken out of the rebel-held districts in eastern Aleppo.

The Russian military also says some die-hard militants have stayed behind and are firing on the Syrian government troops.

An official with the International Committee of the Red Cross is urging all parties in Syria to ensure that the evacuations from Aleppo resume.

ICRC’s regional director Robert Mardini posted on Twitter that, “Regretfully, the operation was put on hold. We urge the parties to ensure it can be relaunched & proceed in the right conditions.”

The Syrian government suspended evacuations from eastern Aleppo hours after they resumed on Friday, saying that rebels opened fire on a convoy with evacuees at a crossing point with the enclave.

A Syrian rebel spokesman, Yasser al-Youssef of the Nour el-Din el-Zinki rebel group, claimed pro-government forces had opened fire on the convoy and also confiscated 25 private cars belonging to the Aleppo evacuees.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency says “pro-regime terrorists groups” had opened fire on the convoy in Aleppo.