Monday, April 17, 2017
Attack On Refugees Leaves More Than 120 Dead In Syria
A suicide bomber blew up his truck with a bus convoy transporting the residents of Fua and Kafraya, loyal to the rebel-ridden regime in the northwestern province of Idlib, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).
In his traditional Easter Sunday "Urbi et Orbi", Pope Francis denounced a "vile attack" and begged for peace in Syria, a country "martyred" and the victim of a war "that never ceases to sow horror and death."
The attack, which has not yet been claimed, took place in Al Rashidin, a rebel outskirts west of Aleppo, where the convoy was blocked for several hours by disagreements between the warring parties.
It was along with the 75 buses stopped at Al Rashidin that the suicide caused the car bomb to explode.
There were at least 68 children among the 126 fatal victims of the bombing, the OSDH said Sunday, warning that the balance will continue to increase due to the number of seriously injured.
Most of the dead are inhabitants of Fua and Kafraya. The rests are helpers and rebels who took care of the buses.
The AFP correspondent on the spot saw many corpses, some charred, including children, and limbs scattered on the ground, as well as many wounded.
- "Death surprises you" -
The attacked buses were charred, and beside a crater, a pickup truck, probably used in the attack, was completely destroyed.
"There was a huge explosion," says Mayssa al-Aswad, 30, who was sitting on a bus with her six-month-old baby and her ten-year-old daughter at the time of the bombing.
"I heard cries and cries ... my baby Hadi cried a lot, my daughter Narjes was looking at me, completely paralyzed," he told AFP, who contacted her by phone from Damascus. "Death can surprise you in a few minutes," he added.
A few hours after the attack, convoys of retreatants resumed their way to their final destination.
The Syrian regime accused the "terrorist groups", a term used by the government to designate rebels and extremists. But the influential rebel group Ahrar al-Sham denied any involvement in the attack.
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Services Coordinator Stephen O'Brien said he was "appalled" by this "monstrous and cowardly" attack. Their authors "demonstrated a brazen indifference to human life," he said.
- Withdrawal continues? -
The withdrawal operation, which also covers thousands of residents of the rebel villages of Madaya and Zabadani near Damascus, began on Friday as a result of an agreement reached between rebel supporters Qatar and Iran's allied government.
More than 7,000 people were withdrawn on Friday and Saturday from the four localities. About 5,000 people from Fua and Kafraya -civis and fighters- have arrived in Aleppo (north), where they will choose their final destination. The 2,200 evacuees of Madaya and Zabadani arrived at Idlib, controlled mostly by the rebels.
It was unclear whether the withdrawal operation that would be intended for thousands of people will continue immediately.
In recent years, and after months of trying, the government has proposed similar withdrawal agreements, which the opposition denounces as "forced transfers", which are considered "crimes against humanity."
In other areas of the country at war, the extremist Islamic state (EI) group tried on Sunday to halt an offensive of Kurds and Arab fighters supported by the United States, who sought to seize Tabqa in the north.
Tabqa is a key step on the way to Raqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the EI group in Syria and a true target of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDS), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.
Unleashed in March 2011 by the violent repression of demonstrations calling for reform, the Syrian conflict has left more than 320,000 dead and millions displaced and refugees, and has been complicated by the arrival of international actors and extremist groups.