Syrian deal to evacuate tens of thousands of people begins
Syrian deal to evacuate tens of thousands of people begins
16 April, 2017, 03:01
The blast hit buses in the Rashidin area on Aleppo's outskirts, which had been waiting to cross from rebel-held territory into the government-controlled city itself, carrying people evacuated from two Shiite villages on Friday.
Evacuees were left stranded as differences emerged over the number of loyalist fighters leaving, a rebel source said, refusing to elaborate as "negotiations are under way".
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. The group said it was investigating to find out who was responsible.
Those aboard were being transported to government-controlled areas of Aleppo after a deal was reached to take civilians out of besieged areas.
The Syrian Civil Defence in Aleppo province, also known as the White Helmets, said its volunteers removed 100 bodies from the scene.
Friday's evacuations were notable because they were reciprocal - seldom during the war has there been an organized population swap between rebels and the government.
Abu Bakir al-Habeeb al-Hakim used to work with al-Qaida and then the al-Nusra Front in Syria, the statement said.
Syria's war has left more than 320,000 people dead since erupting in 2011, with more than half the population forced from their homes and hundreds of thousands enduring siege-like conditions.
The blast earlier Saturday killed at least 39 people and wounded dozens.
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The blast hit buses in the Rashidin area on Aleppo's outskirts.
While talks often begin with extensive demands from the rebel side, these have been whittled down by repeated government airstrikes, as well as pressure from civilians who blame the rebels in part for prolonging their suffering.
The explosion that took place on Saturday was caused by a vehicle bomb, causing massive damage, a local source reported.
Syria's opposition says the evacuation deals, which include areas of Aleppo and a district in the city of Homs, amount to forced displacement of Assad's opponents from Syria's main urban centres in the west of the country. "All these thousands of people are stuck in less than (500 yards)".
Critics say deals are permanently changing the ethnic and religious map, but in an exclusive interview with AFP this week President Bashar al-Assad insisted the evacuations were only temporary and people would return once the "terrorists" had been defeated.
A huge auto bomb has blasted a convoy of coaches carrying evacuees from government-held towns in Syria, killing at least 39 people.
The convoy that departed Al-Fu'ah and Kafriya is carrying 5,000 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
A Lebanese TV channel close to the Syrian government showed footage of new buses arriving at an evacuation point near the site of the explosion. Some busses were charred and others gutted from the explosion as belongings hanged out of windows.
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