Spotlight: War-weary Syrians escape from death to death

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-16 06:24:19|Editor: yan
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DAMASCUS, April 15 (Xinhua) -- It may have never occurred to the people of Kafraya and Foa towns that death ghost was lurking on their long journey to safety.

They had been waiting over 24 hours in their buses without food or water, waiting for a glimpse of hope to get them to safety in Aleppo city after a deal concluded between the government and the rebels for their evacuation from their towns in the countryside of Idlib province.

The evacuation is in exchange of the same move of rebels and their families to evacuate from the towns of Zabadani and Madaya near Damascus.

While efforts for their transportation was being exerted, a suicide car bomber detonated his truck, which was packed with food and explosives, in the gathering point of the buses carrying 5,000 people from the two Shiite towns, killing 70 and wounding 124 others.

Some activists placed the death toll at 112.

The photos of some bodies hanging out from bus windows and others laid on ground near the vehicles haunted Syria as well as the world.

The so-called Jaish al-Islam claimed responsibility for the attack against the Shiite evacuees, who were stuck in the rebel-held area of Rashideen west of Aleppo waiting for their transportation toward government-controlled areas in Aleppo city.

At first, fear rose about the possibility of continuing the deal, which was brokered by Iran, on the side of the government, and Qatar and Turkey on the rebels' side.

While the buses of the Shiites from Kafraya and Foa were waiting in Rashideen, buses of the rebels and their families from Madaya and Zabadani were waiting at the government-controlled Ramouseh crossing south of Aleppo, with the hope of continuing their way toward rebel-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib.

The evacuation from the four towns began on Friday, but the rebels in Rashideen held the buses from Kafraya and Foa, making extra demands, which delayed the process.

But after the deadly bombing, they apparently succumbed to the pressure of their regional backers and allowed the buses to proceed to the government-controlled Aleppo city.

After the blast, anger hit high among the people of the two Shiite towns, with some threatening retribution, which caused the government forces to secure the buses of Madaya in Ramouseh.

During the night, all the buses carrying 5,000 people from the Shiite towns arrived in Aleppo, and the buses carrying 2,300 rebels and their families from Madaya reached Rashideen and will move later to the rebel-held Idlib province.

Jaish al-Islam, which is largely based in the countryside of Damascus, was seemingly against the deal, as it saw a demographic cleansing behind it, particularly that Madaya and Zabadani will be largely emptied, save for the people who want to live under the government control.

Now, the first part of the deal was implemented, through a prisoner swap that began on Wednesday and the evacuation that started on Friday and ended on Saturday.

Still, around 3,000 people are still in the Shiite towns waiting their turn in evacuation. Once they are out, both towns will be completely emptied of their population, and the rebels will take over, after besieging the towns for years.

The same with Madaya and Zabadani, as the army entered Madaya on Friday following the evacuation of the first batch of rebels and their families.

The next step of evacuation will be in Zadabani, where 500 rebel commanders and civilians are set to leave next.

Still, it's not clear when the second batch will leave the four towns, particularly after the explosion.

Earlier, an eyewitness from those waiting in Rashideen told Xinhua that three people died while waiting due to poor medical conditions, before the explosion.

He added that the three dead are all women, who gave birth inside the buses in tough situation as those people had been waiting there for 24 hours without enough food or water.