Syria resumes reciprocal evacuations after deadly bombing

Syria resumes reciprocal evacuations after deadly bombing

BEIRUT — The evacuation of thousands of Syrians from four besieged areas resumed Wednesday, state media and activists said, days after a bombing killed more than 120 evacuees and delayed the widely criticized population transfer.

The Central Military Media says 3,000 residents of two pro-government villages, Foua and Kfarya, left Wednesday in 45 buses bound for government-controlled Aleppo. Another 11 buses carrying some 500 people, including opposition fighters, left Madaya and Zabadani, near Damascus, heading toward the northern rebel-held Idlib province.

The opposition-run Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the transfer, which it says includes 800 armed men from both sides. Some 160, mostly gunmen, had remained in Zabadani.

Soon after the buses left Zabadani, state TV declared the town free of gunmen. The government-controlled Central Military Media later said an area of about 50 square kilometres (19 square miles) has become clear of all opposition fighters.

After repeated delays, the first phase of the deal began on Friday. Some thirty hours after the first two batches reached exchange points, a massive explosion struck near buses carrying evacuees from the pro-government areas, killing more than 120, mostly women and children. Many of the rebel fighters who guarded the buses were also killed. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which the government blamed on the rebels.

Reflecting fears of further violence, Amer Burhan, a medical worker from Zabadani, said buses carrying residents from the pro-government areas were held in the opposition areas until the busses carrying rebels had departed.

Hussein al-Ragheb, a member of the Syrian parliament, told state TV that another 8,000 residents have yet to be evacuated from Foua and Kfarya. Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Observatory, said more evacuations from rebel-held areas south of Damascus are also expected.

The transfer deal is not overseen by the United Nations. Critics say the string of evacuations, which could see some 30,000 people moved across battle lines over the next 60 days, rewards siege tactics and amounts to forced displacement along political and sectarian lines.

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

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

The Associated Press

Just Posted

Langley Rotarians work for clinics in Kenya

Local Rotary Clubs are asking locals to think of others at Christmastime.

#MeToo at work: How reporting sexual harassment works – and how it doesn’t

British Columbians have four options to report harassment or assault, but none of them are easy

Looking Back: Dec. 14, 2017

The community’s history as recorded in the files of the Langley Advance

Throwback Thursday: December 14, 2017

Can you help us caption a photo from Langley’s past?

Giants invite fans to toss teddy bears at Langley game

The annual Teddy Bear Toss takes place at this Sunday’s home game in the LEC.

VIDEO: Recovering addict shares art and story to motivate others

A Langley City man spends time each day painting in McBurney Plaza.

BREAKING: Train collides with car in Maple Ridge

Mother and child both uninjured

Chinese Lantern Festival at PNE starting Friday

Event billed as the largest festival of its kind in Canada

Woman, 75, killed in Vancouver pedestrian crash

The death marks Vancouver’s fifth pedestrian fatality of 2017

B.C. government to launch coastal ferry review in January

The Province will begin a comprehensive review of the coastal ferry service in British Columbia in 2018

5 to start your day

A rhyming MP getting into the Christmas spirit on the hill, Langley boy chased by two men and more

Federal Crown drops appeal after charges against pot activist dismissed

Dana Larsen said he was served notice at his home in Vancouver and the case was to be heard July 2

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to marry May 19

Kensington Palace announced the date to the public Friday

Debt-to-household-income ratio rises in third quarter

Total household credit market debt grew to $2.11 trillion in the third quarter

Most Read