Aleppo 'fully retaken' by Syrian government forces

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated

Aleppo 'fully retaken' by Syrian government forces

Syrians evacuated from the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo during the ceasefire arrive at a refugee camp in Rashidin, near Idlib, Syria | Image: STR AP/Press Association Images

The last convoy of rebel fighters and civilians has left eastern Aleppo as Syrian government forces announce they have fully retaken the city.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated this month following a ceasefire after heavy bombardment by Syrian and Russian jets.

The final group of rebels and their families holed up in a small enclave in Aleppo have now left, and the Syrian army said it had brought "security and safety" back to the northern city.

The country's president Bashar al Assad said taking back opposition-held areas of Aleppo after four years was as much a victory for Russia and Iran as his own country.

His comments came as Mr Assad's ally Russia claimed its air campaign against the besieged city had killed 25,000 "fighters" since September 2015.

Iranian backed militias, led by Lebanese Hezbollah militia, provided thousands of fighters to battle rebels along the city's main front lines.

The victory was a "basic step on the road to ending terrorism in the whole of Syrian territory and creating the right circumstances for a solution to end the war", said Mr Assad.

Humanitarian disaster

Syria's offensive in Aleppo has drawn widespread international criticism.

Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Theresa May and the leaders of France, Canada and Italy jointly condemned the Syrian government "and its foreign backers, especially Russia".

They described Aleppo as a humanitarian disaster "taking place before our very eyes", and said there had been attacks on civilians and humanitarian aid.

The United Nations has spoken of war crimes being committed in Syria.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said warplanes had made 71,000 strikes and had "liquidated 725 training camps, 405 weapon factories and workshops, 1,500 pieces of terrorist equipment, and 35,000 fighters, including 204 field commanders."

The Red Cross says thousands of people have left the city.

"Overnight between Wednesday and Thursday, in one of the last stages of the evacuation, more than 4,000 fighters were evacuated in private cars, vans, and pick-ups from eastern Aleppo," said ICRC spokeswoman Ingy Sedky.

Around 34,000 people had now left rebel areas of Aleppo under an evacuation deal, she said.