Wars and Military Conflicts

Syria conflict: A guide to the latest developments in Aleppo

Men push an evacuee on a stretcher as vehicles wait to evacuate people from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria December 15, 2016.
Abdalrhman Ismail | Reuters

Evacuation efforts to remove civilians trapped in Aleppo were suspended on Friday after rebel groups reportedly opened fire on a convoy. After five years the Syrian civil war is still ongoing, here is a quick update of the latest developments:

What is happening now?

A planned three-day evacuation of civilians in Aleppo, which began on Thursday, was suspended, the Red Cross told CNBC via email.

Syrian State TV said on Friday rebel groups had opened fire on a convoy. It also claimed the rebels had violated the cease-fire by trying to take captives out of the rebel held area, the Associated Press reported.

The United Nations (UN) reported 6,000 people had left Syria's second largest city since Thursday though around 50,000 civilians remain trapped and in need of assistance. There were no confirmed reports for how long the suspension to evacuation efforts would be in place.

Officials on both sides of the conflict confirmed a ceasefire had begun on Thursday at 2.30 a.m local time (7.30 p.m ET Wednesday) but is no longer holding.

Originally an evacuation had been scheduled for Wednesday though it stalled due to continued gunfire and shelling in the city. And Iran insisted on the simultaneous evacuation of two villages besieged by the rebels, Reuters reported, quoting rebel and UN sources.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Japan on Friday peace talks would be renewed to encompass the whole of Syria imminently and he was working with Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, to achieve this aim.

"The next step is to reach an agreement on a total ceasefire across the whole of Syria. We are conducting very active negotiations with representatives of the armed opposition, brokered by Turkey," Putin said.

"If (peace talks) happens, it won't compete with the Geneva talks, but will compliment them. Wherever the conflicting sides meet, in my view it is the right thing to do to try to find a political solution."

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed to CNBC in an email that ten ambulances were able to access the frontlines a few hours after 7 a.m local time on Thursday. The operation was being conducted with support from Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).

"At present, the ICRC and SARC evacuation of wounded and sick is ongoing, and our teams are still inside the key area of Eastern Aleppo," the ICRC spokesperson said in an email on Thursday morning.

"We hope to evacuate 200 to 250 wounded and sick in this first phase, though exact numbers remain difficult to confirm. They will be evacuated to healthcare structures in western rural Aleppo," they added.

Who has been fighting?

STRINGER | AFP | Getty Images

The civil war has been complicated by many players becoming enveloped in the conflict which has now lasted for half a decade.

President Bashar al-Assad's government's state forces have been supported by Russian air strikes and Iranian-backed Shia militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The opposition has been made up of predominantly Sunni rebel groups, which had received financial backing from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

Hardline Islamist groups have been involved in the conflict too such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sahm, previously known as Nusra Front.

How have people in Syria been impacted?

In April 2016, the UN special envoy for Syria approximated that 400,000 people had been killed as result of more than five years of conflict. However, Staffan de Mistura, UN secretary general, stressed that this was not an official UN statistic as the inability to access many areas of the country meant an accurate death toll could not be accurately calculated.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war in March 2011 with the majority of people seeking refuge in neighboring countries or within Syria itself.

To date, the UNHCR approximates that roughly one million people have sought asylum in Europe with Germany and Sweden receiving the most applications for refuge.

The pre-war population of Syria was roughly 22 million meaning so far around half of the country has been displaced.

What happens next?

The situation remains unclear as to how Syria's civil war would unfold from here with Assad determined to focus on retaining opposition strongholds throughout the country. Yet rebel groups have promised to continue fighting in the absence of any proposed political solution.

George Sabra, chief negotiator for the rebel forces' High Negotiations Committee, told the BBC that the opposition to the government would not be prepared to give up despite the loss of Aleppo to state forces.

"Aleppo is an important place for the revolution but it's not the last place," Sabra said.

"Nobody can think about peaceful solutions in these circumstances," he added.