Thousands of evacuated Syrians stuck as transfer stalls

Trevor Jackson
April 16, 2017

Hundreds of civilians and fighters who have been under crippling siege for more than two years left four Syrian towns in fleets of buses on Friday (Saturday in Manila) under a delayed evacuation deal.

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. Assad's Alawite religious minority is often considered an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.He has been backed militarily by Russian Federation, and by Shi'ite fighters from Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group in Syria's six-year-old conflict.Assad has the military advantage over rebels in the west thanks to Russia's intervention in 2015, although the insurgents are still fighting back and have made gains in some areas.

A huge auto bomb has blasted a convoy of coaches carrying evacuees from government-held towns in Syria, killing at least 39 people.

A rebel fighter stands near buses carrying people who were evacuated from villages in Aleppo after a stall in an agreement between rebels and Syria's army.

In footage aired on Syrian TV, bodies, including fighters, were seen lying alongside buses, some of which were charred and others gutted from the blast.

The explosion was caused by a vehicle bomb, according to Syrian TV and the opposition Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, causing massive destruction.

The explosion came as frustration was already mounting over the stalling evacuation process. My house, land and belongings are all in al-Foua", Mehdi Tahhan said.A Madaya resident, speaking from the bus garage inside Aleppo, said people had been waiting there since late on Friday, and were not being allowed to leave."There's no drinking water or food.

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Ahmed Afandar, a resident evacuated from his hometown near Madaya, says dozens of busses carrying children, women and men are not allowed to proceed toward militant-held Idlib as planned.

He said the area was walled off from all sides and there were no toilets. "All these thousands of people are stuck in less than half a kilometer (500 yards)".

No one knows the exact number of the victims yet, the eyewitness said, claiming that "there are more dead people inside the buses".

Thousands of evacuees from Madaya and Zabadani were also stuck in regime-controlled Ramusa, south of Aleppo.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack but pro-government media and the opposition exchanged accusations, each pointing to foreign interference or conspiracies undermining the deal.

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

The population transfer deal has been criticized by opponents as forced displacement and was not overseen by the United Nations.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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