Deadly blast stalls evacuation of thousands of Syrian civilians

SYRIA — A deadly blast in Aleppo from a car bomb which killed over 100 people on Saturday interrupted plans to evacuate more than 3,000 Syrians.

The evacuation affects Syrian civilians from four areas, including the pro-government villages of Foua and Kfraya and the opposition-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani. The attack took place in Rashidin, west of Aleppo, and targeted residents who were being evacuated by bus from the northern towns of Foua and Kfarya under a deal reached between the government and rebels. All four of the Syrian towns have been under siege for years.

According to Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “[i]n the wake of the blast, some 60 buses carrying 2,200 people, including 400 opposition fighters, entered areas held by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo.”

Syrian state TV reported that “[m]ore than 50 buses and 20 ambulances carrying some 5,000 Foua and Kfarya residents entered the government-held city of Aleppo, with some of them later reaching a shelter in the village of Jibreen to the south.”

The U.N. was not involved in the population transfer, but relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien said that they are ready to help the evacuees.

Horrified by the deadly bombing, O’Brien called on everyone there to “facilitate safe and unimpeded access for the U.N. and its partners to bring life-saving help to those in need.”

Madaya and Zabadani used to be popular summer resorts until residents joined the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad. Since then, civil war has kept both towns under government siege.

The residents of Foua and Kfraya have also been under siege, but by rebels who have been bombarding them with rockets and mortars nonstop for years. The only way for them to get food and medicine has been through military airdrops.

The evacuations, which are ongoing, could move an estimated 30,000 people across battle lines during the next two months.

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