Syrian TV says dozens killed in blast near evacuation buses

Aaron Brown
April 16, 2017

The explosion hit the Rashideen area, a rebel-controlled district outside Aleppo city where evacuation buses carrying almost 5,000 people from the northern rebel-besieged villages of Foua and Kfraya were stuck, causing a huge plume of black smoke.

As the Syrian conflict enters its seventh year, more than 465,000 people have been killed in the fighting, more than a million injured and over 12 million Syrians - half the country's prewar population - have been displaced from their homes.

More than 7,000 people who had been under crippling siege for more than two years left four Syrian towns on Friday under a delayed evacuation deal brokered by Iran and Qatar.

This frame grab from video provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media shows Syrian families gathering to leave in buses from Madaya, an opposition-held town near Damascus, Syria, Friday, April 14, 2017.

Syrian state TV said an unknown number of people had been killed and wounded.

The convoy of buses, which were parked at the time, was carrying thousands of people from two regime-held but rebel-besieged villages in northwestern Syria, state-run media reported.

A senior rebel leader said 20 fighters who guarded the buses were killed as well as scores of passengers.

Images from the scene show bodies lying on the ground outside blackened and devastated vehicles.

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More than 30,000 people are expected to be evacuated under the deal, which began on Wednesday with an exchange of prisoners. The rebels and residents of Madaya near Damascus were waiting at the government-held Ramousah bus garage, a few miles away.

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The victims are believed to be from the pro-government villages of Foua and Kefraya, who had been starving under a siege by Islamist rebels.

"The people are restless and the situation is disastrous", said Ahmed Afandar, a resident evacuated from his hometown near Madaya.

The explosion took place in the Rashidin area as thousands of evacuees from the regime-held, predominantly Shia towns of Foua and Kefraya waited on Saturday to continue their journey to regime-controlled Aleppo, the coastal province of Latakia, or Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The buses headed to the Jebrin area for a temporary housing center equipped with food and medical supplies, SANA said.

The deal had stipulated that in the first stage 8,000 people, including 2,000 loyalist fighters, leave the two towns but in the event just 5,000, including 1,300 fighters left, the Britain-based Observatory said. The evacuees from Madaya were expected to head to rebel-held Idlib, west of Aleppo.

An opposition representative, Ali Diab, accused the government side of violating the terms of the agreement, by evacuating fewer armed men than agreed to from the pro-government areas.

The SOHR said at least 2,100 residents, including rebel fighters, are due to be evacuated from Zabadani and Madaya and transported to Idlib.

The much criticized deal is to transfer thousands from besieged pro-government and anti-government areas.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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