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Evacuations resume in Syria
20 April 2017, 07:06 | Erica Roy
Pope Francis leads the Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
People, who were evacuated from the two rebel-besieged villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, wait at insurgent-held al-Rashideen, to travel to government-controlled Aleppo, Syria April 19, 2017.
By midweek the full evacuation programme appeared to have restarted after stopping briefly, both rebel and state media said, with 3,000 more residents of the pro-government towns al Foua and Kefraya leaving on 45 buses. The evacuation of the towns, along with more rebel villages along the border, are expected to continue for some time.
The population swaps between opposition and regime-held areas had been halted after a suicide bombing ripped through a convoy of buses Saturday, killing 126 people, including 68 children, who were being evacuated as part of the same deal. This is the biggest such effort, and one of the first to include major evacuations of Shi'ites out of Idlib.
When Wednesday's evacuations are complete, a total of 8,000 people should have left Fuaa and Kafraya, including pro-government fighters and civilians.
Some 300 evacuees from rebel-held towns were similarly held up at a staging point at Ramussa in government-held territory.
Hundreds of frightened Syrian evacuees from two besieged government-held towns were stuck at a rebel-held transit point on Thursday where dozens of their fellow townspeople were killed in a weekend bombing.
Armed rebels were standing guard at Rashidin yesterday and carefully inspecting vehicles arriving in the area.
Standing nearby, 55-year-old Um Joud from Fuaa said it was hard to describe how she felt.
It was brokered late last month by Qatar, a longtime opposition supporter, and Iran, a key regime ally, but its implementation had been repeatedly delayed. The government blamed "terrorists" - a catch-all term for its opponents.
Rebels say they amount to forced relocation after years of bombardment and siege.
The deal, now in its first stage, has been repeatedly delayed.
In all, up to 30,000 people are expected to leave under the deal.
Reflecting fears of further violence, Amer Burhan, a medical worker from Zabadani, said buses carrying residents from the pro-government areas were held in the opposition areas until the busses carrying rebels had departed.
A few days after the incident, USA forces carried out a missile strike on a Syrian airbase from where Washington claimed the chemical attack was launched, in the first direct American action against Assad's regime.
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