Thousands able to escape Aleppo, but evacuations stall after more fighting

Around the clock, buses rolled from east Aleppo into rebel-held areas of the Syrian countryside nearby. The exodus continued Friday morning, a stream of ambulances carrying the injured .

It’s estimated that 8,000 to 9,000 civilians and rebel fighters have left so far, crammed into any vehicle that moved, with no choice but to start again in unknown territory.

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A convoy leaving rebel-held Aleppo

CBS News

Some found comfort, even joy, as they were reunited with friends they weren’t even sure were alive. But for most, the evacuation has been both heartbreak and shock.

Mohammed was a teacher at Aleppo University. “I cried. I left my homeland, I was forced to leave my homeland,” he said.

Then suddenly, late Friday afternoon, someone started shelling.

It can be heard in the background of a Syrian TV report, the reporter unsure where it’s coming from.

Each side accused the other of opening fire, and we still don’t know the truth. But almost immediately the Red Cross and Red Crescent withdrew their ambulances and the evacuation stopped.

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Civilians stuck in the ruins of Aleppo

CBS News

Meanwhile inside East Aleppo, thousands are still waiting to get out, as opposition activist Lina Shamy reported this afternoon.

“Very few people could leave the city...very few people. And still thousands of civilians in the city with a lot of injured,” Shamy said.

One convoy that did leave Aleppo Friday was turned back, witnesses say by one of the Iranian militias fighting with Assad. Those people are back among the ruins Friday night as the temperature dips to near freezing.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."