Syria Evacuation Plans In Chaos As Gunmen Burn Refugee Buses

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Burning buses meant to evacuate ill and injured people from the besieged Syrian villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, Syria.Reuters

Armed men burned five buses that were supposed to be used for an evacuation near Idlib in Syria on Sunday, stalling a deal to allow thousands to depart from the last rebel pocket in Aleppo, where evacuees crammed into buses for hours before departing the city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the evacuation of the villages near Idlib had been postponed as a result of the incident. Five buses leaving Aleppo were held, packed with evacuees, for hours before they could drive the five km (three miles) to rebel-held territory outside.

In return for the evacuation of fighters, their families and other civilians from Aleppo, the mostly Sunni insurgents had agreed that people in the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, Shi’ite villages that they have besieged near Idlib, should also be allowed to leave.

Videos posted on social media showed bearded men with guns cheering and shouting “God is great” after torching the green buses before they were able to reach the villages.

State media said “armed terrorists”, a term it uses for all groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad, had carried out the attack. Pro-Damascus Mayadeen television and the Observatory blamed the rebel group formerly known as the Nusra Front.

Rebel officials said an angry crowd of people, possibly alongside pro-government “operatives”, was responsible.

Although the Aleppo evacuation convoy was eventually cleared to drive to rebel-held al-Rashideen, there was no official word on what impact the bus burning would have on the departure of more convoys from the city and the two villages.

While the Observatory said the convoy of five buses had reached al-Rashideen, a United Nations official in Syria said only that they had left east Aleppo, adding: “The evacuations are on.” … read more

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