Miércoles, 25 Abril, 2018

Syrian evacuations called off after bus bombing

Omar haj kadour Syrians stuck around Aleppo as evacuation deal stalls: monitor, activists
Eleena Tovar | 21 Abril, 2017, 16:37

Hundreds of people were wounded in the blast, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria to monitor the conflict.

The agreement had stalled, leaving thousands of people from both government-besieged and rebel-besieged areas stranded at two transit points on the city's outskirts, before the explosion occurred.

Video on state television later showed charred bodies and mangled buses, which had been carrying pro-government Shi'ite fighters and civilians from the besieged villages toward the government-controlled city.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV, earlier said that 3,000 people will be evacuated from Foua and Kfarya, while 200, the vast majority of them fighters, will be evacuated from Zabadani and Madaya. The influential rebel Ahrar al-Sham force denied involvement, with a senior official tweeting: "Our role was to secure civilians not kill them".

Around 112 people were killed when a massive explosion hit the convoy carrying Shia residents from rebel-held to the government's territory after an evacuation deal had been struck between the two sides.

The blast ripped through a bus depot in the al-Rashideen area where thousands of government loyalists evacuated the day before waited restlessly for hours, as opposition fighters guarded the area while negotiators bickered over the completion of the transfer deal.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which pro-government media said was carried out by a rebel suicide bomber. It is not clear who was responsible for the bombing, but Sunni jihadist groups, including the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaida, operate in the area and routinely attack Shi'ites, whom they consider apostates.

Syrian children, wounded in a suicide vehicle bombing that targeted their buses in Rashidin, west of Aleppo on April 15. Madaya evacuees said they heard the blast.

"We deplore any act that sustains and empowers extremists on all sides including today's attacks, as well as forced migration, increased displacement, and all forms of violence directed against civilians in Syria", Mark Toner, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement. The rest were aid workers and rebels guarding the convoy.

Buses carrying around 5,000 people from the opposition-held villages of Fuah and Kafriya in Idlib province reached central Aleppo, the correspondents said.

A previous attempt at mutual evacuations failed in December when rebels burnt coaches due to be sent to the towns.