The Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah and Shiite militias fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been accused of committing massacres as civilians and rebel fighters were being evacuated from eastern Aleppo, Voice of American reported Friday.
According to leaders of the Syrian opposition, Shiite militiamen commanded by Iran stopped a convoy carrying some 800 refugees from Aleppo and forcibly disarmed rebel fighters, in violation of the ceasefire agreement. They proceeded to seize a group of civil defense workers overseeing the evacuation, killing three of them.
“Militias forced everyone to get off the buses, confiscated all individual weapons, forced men to get undressed to their underwear, killed three men and injured 7 others, then forced the convoy to go back to the besieged area of Aleppo city, and some buses are still missing,” said Ahmad Abo Al-Nour, a witness to the killings.
In another incident, observed by a witness who wished to remain anonymous, members of Hezbollah stopped a convoy consisting of 20 buses. Hezbollah fighters and tanks surrounded the vehicles, firing wildly and expelling the Red Cross and Red Crescent workers who were overseeing the evacuation. They forced all the men to get off the buses, confiscating their weapons and mobile phones.
A rebel fighter who was accompanied by his pregnant wife and tried to resist was killed along with four others. Hezbollah then reportedly commandeered a number of the civil defense vehicles and ambulances, forcing the rest of the convoy back into the besieged section of Aleppo.
While Russia, an ally of Iran and Assad, has claimed that all rebels and civilians who wanted to leave Aleppo have done so, Syrian opposition leaders and the Turkish government say that thousands more are still stranded in the city. Evacuations resumed overnight Monday after days of delays and multiple accounts that pro-Assad forces killed and abused convoy passengers on their way out of eastern Aleppo, The New York Times reported.
The reports of Iran-backed militias carrying out killings in the aftermath of the fighting echo similar reports regarding Iran-backed militias in Iraq.
In August, Reuters reported that the United States had failed to restrain the Iraqi Shiite militias or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), many of whom have been deployed to Aleppo, from committing widespread human rights abuses against Sunni civilians during the battle for Fallujah. In March 2015, similar reports about the atrocities committed by the Shiite militias emerged following the battle for Amerli.
The close ties between Iran and the PMU, which the Associated Press called “just as brutal” as ISIS in 2014, have been extensively documented. The militias are headed by Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, who U.S. officials have accused of bombing the American and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983. Al-Mohandis, a deputy of IRGC chief Soleimani, was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2009, along with Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the main PMF militias, for targeting American and coalition forces in Iraq.
The UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, declared in July that there was strong evidence that the PMU committed atrocities in the battle for Fallujah.
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