A car bomb exploded in Rashidin, west of Aleppo, killing dozens of evacuees, including children, that had been waiting on buses evacuating the Syrian towns of Foua (al-Fu’ah/Fuaa) and Kefraya (Kafriya). The evacuation was part of the “Four Towns” deal that the BBC reports was brokered by Iran and Qatar. Foua and Kefraya are besieged government-held towns, the BBC reports. Meanwhile, Madaya and Zabadani are besieged rebel-held towns, the BBC reports. Women and children were among those killed in the attack on the evacuation buses. The buses were filled with predominantly Shia civilians from the two pro-government Shia villages just trying to escape to safety.
Reuters reported that early Friday, civilians from “Shi’ite villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, besieged by rebel forces” left on buses headed for the government-held Aleppo. The buses arrived at the outskirts several hours later. While waiting to enter Aleppo, the buses were attacked.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reportedly said the attack in Rashidin had specifically targeted residents evacuated from predominantly-Shia Foua and Kefraya. An AFP reporter in rebel-held Rashidin reported witnessing bodies, body parts, and blood. Children and other civilians, as well as pro-government fighters, were among those killed in the horrendous attack.
“The suicide bomber was driving a van supposedly carrying aid supplies and detonated near the buses,” the Observatory said.
State media said that the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) had been employed by “terrorist groups.” The Independent reported that the buses were being guarded by “al-Qaeda-linked alliance Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” fighters. Some fighters from that group were also killed in the VBIED explosion. Lebanese journalist Rana Harbi reported on Twitter that the explosion was set off by rebels, but other media outlets have yet to confirm who is responsible for the deaths of Shia civilians, including children.
Thousands of evacuees from the state-held towns of Foua and Kefraya waited in the streets. They had lived “under crippling siege for more than two years,” according to AFP. When the bomb exploded, they had been essentially sitting ducks, stuck on the road in Rashidin. A rebel source told AFP that the evacuees had been left stranded after disagreements came up pertaining to the number of loyalists fighters that were leaving.
“The blast hit the Rashidin area on the outskirts of Aleppo, where dozens of buses carrying mostly Shia Muslim families from pro-government villages were waiting to enter the city,” Lizzie Dearden, a reporter from The Independent, wrote, adding that the Shias had been predominantly targeted by ISIS “and to a lesser extent by al-Qaeda in the past.”
The victims of the blast from the pro-state villages that had reportedly experienced starvation under the siege, The Independent wrote.
“How can anyone trust the ‘rebels’? WE failed these children,” Lebanese journalist Rana Harbi wrote. “WE told them be patient. & after 2 years.. this? Burned in evacuation buses?”
The Cypress Weekly reported that the evacuees had been waiting in their buses to cross into government-held Aleppo. Many injured in the blast ended up entering the city in ambulances.
Dozens died in the blast, but exact numbers are still uncertain. A media unit run by Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim political party and militant group, said the blast killed at least 40 people, Reuters reported. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 24 people were killed, Reuters reported. Other reports indicate as many as 100 evacuees may have been killed in the bombing of the buses.
Journalist Rana Harbi shared extremely graphic images of the scene to her Twitter account, stating that she “can’t do this anymore.”
The images shared on social media depicting the aftermath of the detonation of the VBIED on a road in Rashidin outside of Aleppo may be disturbing to some readers.
Readers should use discretion scrolling down.
The following video and images contain extremely graphic visuals, including the actual deceased bodies of women and children evacuees from Foua and Kefraya, Syria, but have been shared on social media by concerned parties and journalists, reportedly so that the West might have a better idea of the nightmare of Syrian civilians’ lives.
Reporter Tobias Schneider said that evacuees from Zabadani and Madaya are terrified today of retribution against them because they make up the other side of the “Four Towns” evacuation deal.
[Featured Image by Thiqa News Agency/AP Images]