Thousands of evacuated Syrians stuck as transfer stalls

Jerome Frank
April 16, 2017

As diplomacy in Moscow focused on the USA airstrikes targeting Syria, more than 2,350 people were bused out of the twin rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani near Damascus, and another 5,000 from the pro-government towns of Foua and Kfraya in the country's north.

About 5,000 people were evacuated on 75 buses from two pro-government towns in northern Syria to the nearby city of Aleppo, said Abdul Hakim Baghdadi, who helped negotiate the arrangement.

The explosion Saturday hit an evacuation point south of Aleppo city where dozens of buses have been parked for over 30 hours as a much criticized population transfer deal stalled.

Rebels and the government disagreed over the number of gunmen that could be evacuated. 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 rebel official says at least 30 of his opposition fighters who were guarding the evacuees were killed in the blast.

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. The opposition says they have been forced out by the siege and bombardment.

A similar attack took place in December when buses were burnt by rebel forces as evacuees fled the war-torn area.

People that were evacuated from the two villages of Kefraya and al-Foua walk near buses at militant-held al-Rashideen, Aleppo Province, Syria, on April 15, 2017.

Hundreds of civilians and fighters who have been under crippling siege for over two years, left four Syrian towns in fleets of buses yesterday under a delayed evacuation deal. "All these thousands of people are stuck in less than (500 yards)".

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Meanwhile, US-backed fighters reached the outskirts of a key ISIL-held town in northern Syria on Saturday as part of an offensive aimed at Raqqa - the de facto Syrian capital of ISIL's self-proclaimed "caliphate".

The Syrian Civil Defense in Aleppo province, also known as the White Helmets, said its volunteers removed at least 100 bodies from the scene of the blast.

The waiting passengers spent the night on their buses in Ramusa, where the Red Crescent also distributed food and water, Amjad al-Maleh told AFP by telephone.

A report said that dozens of buses were carrying children, women and men and were not allowed to proceed towards rebel-held Idlib as per the negotiation.

"We are not moving forward or backward", he said.

The evacuees from Madaya headed to rebel-held Idlib, west of Aleppo.

"Terrorists are not letting people flee from the territory toward Aleppo and are preventing evacuation of Fua and Kefraya residents [from militants-held Rashidin neighborhood near Aleppo]", the source said.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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