RASHIDIN: Evacuations of thousands of besieged Syrians resumed on Wednesday with tight security in place after a weekend bombing against those leaving government-held areas killed dozens, including nearly 70 children.
A large convoy of buses set out from the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya in Idlib province, carrying 3,000 people to the rebel-held transit point of Rashidin near Aleppo, an AFP correspondent said.
At the same time, 11 buses carrying around 300 people left rebel-held Zabadani, Serghaya and Jabal Sharqi in Damascus province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
In Rashidin, security was tight after a devastating bomb attack on evacuees at the site on Saturday that according to the Observatory killed 126 people, including 68 children.
When Wednesday’s evacuations are complete, a total of 8,000 people should have left Fuaa and Kafraya in exchange for 2,500 civilians and rebels from opposition areas.
Wednesday’s evacuations mark the end of the first stage of the deal, with a second phase due to begin in June.
Fuaa and Kafraya will be emptied entirely, with residents and fighters heading to Aleppo and then on to government-held Latakia or Damascus.
In all, up to 30,000 people are expected to leave under the deal.
President Bashar al-Assad says evacuation deals are the best way to end the six-year war, but the opposition says they amount to forced relocation after years of bombardment and siege.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2017