The evacuation of civilians and fighters from besieged Syrian towns resumed on Wednesday after a weekend bombing at a transit point killed 126 people, 68 of them children, an AFP correspondent reported. Dozens of buses from the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya, which have been under crippling siege for more than two years, reached the edge of the rebel-held transit point of Rashidin outside government-held second city Aleppo, the correspondent said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the hard-won evacuation deal was back under way. “The process has resumed with 3,000 people leaving Fuaa and Kafraya at dawn and nearly 300 leaving Zabadani and two other rebel-held areas,” the head of the Britain-based monitoring group, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP.
Rashidin was the scene of Saturday’s deadly bombing. At least 109 of the dead were evacuees. The rest were aid workers and rebels guarding the convoy. Dozens of wounded were taken to hospitals in nearby rebel-held territory, while others were taken to Aleppo.
The evacuations were taking place under a deal between the government and the rebels that is also seeing residents and rebels transported out of Madaya and Zabadani, towns near Damascus that are surrounded by pro-government forces.
The agreement is the latest in a string of such deals, which the government of President Bashar al-Assad says are the best way to end the violence after more than six years of civil war. Rebels say they amount to forced relocation after years of bombardment and siege.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s bombing. Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, which has many fighters in the area, denied any involvement. The government blamed “terrorists” — a catch-all term for its opponents.
The evacuation deal was brokered late last month by Qatar, a longtime supporter of the rebels, and Iran, a key regime ally. Its implementation had been repeatedly delayed.