Mon, Apr 17, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Mass evacuation still on despite bombing in Syria


Syrian families are conforted after their arrival at the al-Ramousa area in Aleppo on Saturday after being evacuated from the besieged towns of Foua and Kfarya, including some people who were injured by an explosion in a holding area earlier in the day as they awaited evacuation.

Photo: EPA

More than 3,000 Syrians were expected to be evacuated yesterday from four areas as part of a population transfer that was briefly stalled the day before by a deadly blast that killed scores of people, most of them government supporters.

The UN is not overseeing the transfer deal, which involves residents of the pro-government villages of Foua and Kfarya and the opposition-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani.

All four have been under siege for years, their fate linked through a series of reciprocal agreements that the UN says have hindered aid deliveries.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said 3,000 people were to be evacuated from Foua and Kfarya, while 200, the vast majority of them fighters, were to be evacuated from Zabadani and Madaya.

Abdurrahman said that Saturday’s blast — which hit an area where thousands of government loyalists evacuated the day before had been waiting for hours — killed 112.

He said the dead included 98 people from Foua and Kfarya, with the rest aid workers and rebels who had been guarding the convoy.

Hundreds of people were wounded in the blast, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria to monitor the conflict.

After the blast, about 60 buses carrying 2,200 people, including 400 opposition fighters, entered areas held by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo, Abdurrahman said.

More than 50 buses and 20 ambulances carrying about 5,000 Foua and Kfarya residents entered the government-held city of Aleppo, Syrian state TV said, with some of them later reaching a shelter in the village of Jibreen to the south.

UN relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien said he was “horrified”’ by the deadly bombing, and that while the UN was not involved in the transfer it was ready to “`scale up our support to evacuees.”

He called on all parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, and to “facilitate safe and unimpeded access for the UN and its partners to bring life-saving help to those in need.”

Residents of Madaya and Zabadani, formerly summer resorts, joined the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and came under government siege in the ensuing civil war.

Residents of Foua and Kfraya, besieged by the rebels, have lived under a steady hail of rockets and mortars for years, but were supplied with food and medicine through military airdrops.

Critics say the string of evacuations, which could see about 30,000 people moved across battle lines over the next 60 days, amounts to forced displacement along political and sectarian lines.

Body parts and the belongings of evacuees were still strewn at the scene of the attack yesterday, an Agence France-Presse correspondent said.

The shattered buses were parked nearby as was the shell of the pick-up truck — with little left but its engine block — that was used to carry out the bombing.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing, though the key Ahrar al-Sham rebel group denied any involvement.

The Syrian government has blamed the incident on “terrorists” — a catch-all term for its opponents.

Additional reporting by AFP

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