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NEW: Countries announce Moscow Declaration, aimed at "settlement" of Syrian crisis
Turkey says 37,500 have been evacuated; Red Cross puts figure at 25,000
The evacuation of the Syrian city of Aleppo could be coming to a close soon, multiple officials and a rebel group said, although they disagreed on the time frame and the number of evacuees.
A group of buses scheduled to evacuate the last civilians and rebels from eastern Aleppo has been delayed, Syrian state-run media said, blaming infighting among rebel factions.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted Tuesday that 37,500 people had been evacuated from the war-torn city so far, adding that “all evacuations are intended to be finished by tomorrow.”
Both the Syrian regime and a key rebel group had said earlier they expected the evacuations to be completed Tuesday.
The regime is on the verge of retaking Aleppo from rebel groups who have controlled parts of the city since 2012. The government has made significant territorial gains after its forces, backed by airstrikes, entered rebel-held areas in late November.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the evacuation would conclude in the coming days.
However, the International Committee of the Red Cross has put the number of evacuees since Thursday at 25,000 and said the operation is “still ongoing.”
A further 750 people have so far been evacuated from the largely Shiite villages of Fuaa and Kafraya in Syria’s mainly rebel-held Idlib province as part of the same deal, the ICRC said.
It is unclear how many civilians and rebels are trapped in eastern Aleppo. But Syrian state-run Ekhbariya TV reported the Syrian army has used loudspeakers to urge remaining rebels to leave the area, warning it intends to enter the enclave in the coming hours to “remove remnants of terrorism.”
Ekhbariya TV also reported that 51 buses had entered the city Tuesday to transport a number of rebels and their families to Idlib province.