The Syrian government suspended evacuations from eastern Aleppo just hours after they resumed on Friday, saying that rebels had opened fire on a convoy of evacuees at a crossing point with the enclave, state TV reported.
It wasn’t immediately clear how long the suspension would last or whether it would delay the cease-fire deal under which tens of thousands of residents and rebel fighters are being evacuated to opposition-controlled areas in the surrounding countryside, a process likely to take several days.
Earlier on Friday, as the evacuations resumed for a second day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a major new Syria peace initiative, saying he and his Turkish counterpart are working to set up peace talks between Damascus and the opposition in Kazakhstan.
The evacuations seal the end of the Syrian rebels’ most important stronghold, the eastern part of the city of Aleppo, and mark a watershed moment in the country’s civil war, now in its sixth year.
In announcing the suspensions, the Syrian TV also claimed that the rebels had tried to take with them captives they had seized and were holding in the rebel enclave during bitter battles to defend their territory from a ferocious, weeks-long onslaught by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops.
Lebanon’s Al-Manar Hezbollah TV said the Syrian army stopped the evacuation process because the rebels had violated the cease-fire deal. Hezbollah militiamen are fighting in the Syrian conflict alongside Assad’s forces.
The Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV said buses that were parked at the Ramouseh crossing point had left the area after it was targeted by gunmen.
Speaking on a visit to Japan, Putin said that the negotiations would take place in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, and that he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are also working for an overall truce in Syria.