Car bomb kills at least 39 Syria evacuees

Residents from the two villages had been evacuated Friday, along with more than 2,000 from Madaya, an opposition-held town outside of Damascus besieged by government forces.

The explosion Saturday hit an evacuation point south of Aleppo city, where dozens of buses have been parked for more than 30 hours as a much-criticised population transfer deal stalled.

The residents, alongside hundreds of pro-government fighters, had left the two rebel-besieged villages in northwest Idlib province under a deal where in exchange, hundreds of Sunni insurgents and their families moved out of a government-besieged area near Damascus. The major blast hit a bus depot in a rebel-controlled area where residents of pro-government towns have arrived late Friday.

"The people are restless and the situation is disastrous", said Ahmed Afandar, a resident evacuated from his the opposition area near Madaya. "Apparently it happened in an area where the sick and the injured were either being transferred or swapped", Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid said, reporting from Antakya in Turkey.

Salloum Salloum, a lawmaker speaking on the pro-government al-Ikhbariya TV channel, said efforts were underway to resolve the problem, accusing the rebels of adding new conditions to the deal.

Rescuers say at least 100 people were killed from opposition and government supporters.

Footage from the scene showed bodies, including those of fighters, lying alongside buses, some of which were charred and others gutted from the blast. After the blast, evacuees from opposition areas pleaded for protection fearing revenge attacks. The two sides disagreed on the number of fighters to be evacuated from four areas. A war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says 43 were killed in the blast that hit the al-Rashidin area, on the edge of Aleppo city.

Around 2,220 evacuees from Madaya and Zabadani were similarly blocked at a transit point in government-held territory, one of them told AFP by telephone. "All these thousands of people are stuck in less than half a kilometer (500 yards)".

Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the Syrian government and rebels who negotiated the deal have differed over the evacuation of gunmen from the towns. Assad is from the minority Alawite sect and is supported by Shi'ite regional allies.It was unclear who carried out Saturday's bombing attack.

A resident of Zabadani, another rebel-held town to be evacuated, reportedly said that in last few days no evacuation has taken place from there.

  • Rogelio Becker