The withdrawal of Jihadi fighters and civilians from the formerly Al-Qaeda controlled districts of eastern Aleppo has against stalled today, notwithstanding that thousands of civilians and Jihadi fighters left eastern Aleppo under Russian military escort yesterday.
The Syrian government says that there are two reasons for the latest delay.
The first is that the Al-Qaeda tried to smuggle some of the prisoners the Jihadi fighters had captured out of Aleppo as part of the evacuation.
This allegation appears to be disputed. It is not however inherently implausible. Jihadi groups in Syria, especially those aligned with Al-Qaeda, regularly take prisoner individuals whom they then try to ransom. Prisoners are therefore valuable items of merchandise, and it is not surprising if some Jihadi fighters are reluctant to release prisoners they have taken.
The second reason is that Al-Qaeda is refusing to allow the evacuation of civilians and wounded Shiite fighters from two Shia villages in Idlib province, which are themselves under siege by Al-Qaeda led Jihadis. This evacuation from these two villages was part of the deal agreed by Putin and Erdogan the day before yesterday, and which the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis accepted in order to secure their withdrawal from Aleppo.
The important point to make about this second reason, is that it is not being disputed, a fact which highlights a key point about the Syrian war that the Western media tries to avoid.
This is that unlike the Syrian government, which is avowedly secular and non-sectarian, the armed opposition to the Syrian government consists almost entirely of militant Wahhabi Jihadists, who are sectarian by definition. Not only are these people violent sectarians who besiege Shia villages – a fact the Western media incidentally also prefers to ignore – but their sectarianism is so fanatical that they are unwilling to let Shia villagers go even if this means putting in jeopardy the safety of their co-religionists in Aleppo.
The reality is that with the Syrian army in control of Aleppo, the remaining Jihadis there are in no position to offer any more resistance. Almost certainly despite the opposition of the local Jihadis to the evacuation of the two villages, overwhelming pressure will be brought upon them to let the civilians and wounded Shiite fighters from the two Shia villages go, so that the evacuation of the remaining Jihadi fighters from Aleppo can resume.
In the meantime, in light of the atrocity stories about which so much has been written and said over the last few weeks, it is worth also pointing out that no one is so far saying that there have been any attacks on the Jihadi fighters and civilians who have been leaving eastern Aleppo as a result of the Putin-Erdogan agreement.