Gunmen burn buses, Aleppo convoy goes through

 Reuters International

A woman sits with her child reading the Koran while waiting to be evacuated with others from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria December 17, 2016.

REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail


By Lisa Barrington and Suleiman Al-Khalidi

BEIRUT/AMMAN (Reuters) – Armed men burned five buses that were supposed to be used for an evacuation near Idlib in Syria on Sunday, stalling a deal to allow thousands to depart the last rebel pocket in Aleppo, where evacuees crammed into buses for hours before departing the city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the evacuation of the villages near Idlib had been postponed as a result of the incident. Five buses leaving Aleppo were held, packed with evacuees, for hours before they could drive the 5 km (3 miles) to rebel-held territory outside.

In return for the evacuation of fighters, their families and other civilians from Aleppo, the mostly Sunni insurgents had agreed that people in the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, Shi’ite villages that they have besieged near Idlib, should also be allowed to leave.

Videos posted on social media showed bearded men with guns cheering and shouting “God is great” after torching the green buses before they were able to reach the villages.

State media said “armed terrorists”, a term it uses for all groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad, had carried out the attack. Pro-Damascus Mayadeen television and the Observatory blamed the rebel group formerly known as the Nusra Front.



(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Angus McDowall in Beirut, Tulay Karadeniz and Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by Anna Willard; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Mary Milliken)


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