Martes, 14 Agosto, 2018

Thousands expected to be evacuated in Syria after blast

Eleena Tovar | 16 Abril, 2017, 15:10

Buses carrying Syrians, evacuated from the towns al-Foua and Kefraya, arrive at Aleppo's Ramousseh crossing as they make their way to a makeshift shelter in Jibrin on the eastern outskirts of Aleppo, on April 15, 2017, as part of a deal between the militants and the Syrian government.

The evacuation started on Friday, with 5,000 Shiite people leaving Kafaraya and Foa and 2,300 rebels and their families leaving the town of Madaya as first batches.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 98 evacuees from the northern towns of Fuaa and Kafraya were killed when an explosives-laden vehicle hit their buses at a transit point west of Aleppo on Saturday.

Since then, as many as 400,000 people are estimated to have been killed - and millions more displaced - as a result of the conflict, according to United Nations officials. More than half the population forced to leave their homes and hundreds of thousands endured siege-like conditions.

The towns had been encircled for years by a loose coalition of hard-line Islamist rebels, including the faction Ahrar al Sham as well as the former Al Qaeda affiliate Organization for the Liberation of Syria (once known as the Nusra Front). He added it was not clear how many rebels were killed because they were evacuated to their areas. The deal between opposition fighters and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Qassemi further stressed that dividing militants into "good and bad" by supporters of such groups only serves to embolden terrorists.

Rescuers say at least 100 people were killed from opposition and government supporters.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, and its implications for the broader transfer deal were unclear.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and called on all parties "to ensure the safety and security of those waiting to be evacuated".

Al-Ikhbariya TV said 48 wounded were transported in exchange for allowing five buses of residents from opposition areas to head towards rebel-controlled territory.

The south-west towns of Zabadani and Madaya, near Damascus, have been blockaded by pro-Assad forces.

Foua and Kfraya, besieged by the rebels, lived under a steady hail of rockets and mortar fire. "All these thousands of people are stuck" in an area smaller than 500 yards.

Thousands of evacuees from Madaya and Zabadani were also stuck in regime-controlled Ramusa, south of Aleppo. Hundreds of people are said to have been injured. After the blast, evacuees from opposition areas pleaded for protection fearing revenge attacks.

The population shift is an attempt to alleviate the hardship of residents of towns under siege by both rebel and government forces.

State television said the vehicle bombing had been carried out by "terrorist groups", a term the regime applies to all armed opposition groups.