Dozens killed and injured as explosion targets evacuated civilians in Syria

Published April 15th, 2017 - 02:31 GMT
Buses carrying civilians from two government-held villages in Idlib wait in Aleppo, before the explosion. (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)
Buses carrying civilians from two government-held villages in Idlib wait in Aleppo, before the explosion. (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)

An explosion has hit Syria bus convoy waiting to evacuate pro-government militants and residents from two Shia villages, killing and injuring dozens in the Rashidin area west of Alepo.

A large explosion targeted the buses, local sources told The New Arab, killing and injuring scores of fighters and residents from Foua and Kefraya, as well as rebels securing the convoy.

The cause of the explosion remains unknown, the sources said, speculating that it may be the result of explosive charges planted in the buses, a car bomb or a surface-to-surface missile.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported casualties, saying the explosion appeared to be caused by a bomb.

Medical crews rushed to the scene to evacuate casualties to nearby medical points, as civilians scattered into fields near the blast site fearing other explosions.

Evacuation halted

Thousands of Syrians evacuated from their besieged towns under a widely criticised rebel-regime deal have spent the night on buses at an exchange point as a much criticised population transfer deal stalls, activists and residents said Saturday.

Syrian state TV blamed the rebels for obstructing the deal, causing thousands of evacuees to be stuck in bus depots overnight. Syrian Red Crescent teams distributed meals for the restless evacuees, who had left their homes over 30 hours earlier.

Dozens of buses carrying thousands children, women and men from pro-government areas Foua and Kfraya, and from opposition towns Madaya and Zabadani were parked at separate parts of the edge of Aleppo city, separated by walls, Syrian TV showed.

“The people are restless and the situation is disastrous,” said Ahmed Afandar, a resident evacuated from his hometown near Madaya. “All these thousands of people are stuck in less than half a kilometer (500 yards).” He said the area was walled off from all sides and there were no restrooms.

“We are not moving forward or backward,” he said. The evacuees from Madaya were expected to head to rebel-held Idlib, west of Aleppo. Afandar said people were not allowed to leave the buses for a while before they were let out. Food was distributed after several hours and by early afternoon the evacuees from rebel-held areas were “pressured” to sit back on their buses, Afandar said.

Salloum Salloum, a lawmaker speaking on the pro-government al-Ikhbariya TV channel, said efforts are underway to resolve the problem, accusing the rebels of adding new conditions to the deal.

Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says the Syrian government and rebels who negotiated the deal have disagreed over the terms for the evacuation of gunmen from the towns.

An opposition representative, Ali Diab, told the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya TV that fewer armed men than agreed to were evacuated from the pro-government areas, violating the terms of the agreement.

A resident of Zabadani — another rebel-held town to be evacuated — Amer Burhan says no evacuation has taken place from there.

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