News World Suicide bomber’s horrific attack on Syrian refugees

Suicide bomber’s horrific attack on Syrian refugees

Lucky to be alive, a survivor of the suicide bomber's attack picks his way through the wreckage. Photo: AP
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At least 80 children were among the 126 killed in Saturday’s suicide bomb attack on an evacuation convoy in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

The attack on a convoy of civilians fleeing the besieged towns of al-Foua and Kfraya, outside Aleppo, marked a “new horror that must break the heart of anyone who has one,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director.

“We must draw from this not only anger, but renewed determination to reach all the innocent children throughout Syria with help and comfort,” he said.

A wounded girl, who said she lost her four siblings in the blast, told Al-Manar TV from her hospital bed that children who had been deprived of food for years in the two villages were approached by a man in the car who told them to come and eat potato chips.

She said once many had gathered, there was an explosion that tore some of the children to pieces.

Packed with refugees just minutes earlier, this bus was reduced to a blackened death trap by the suicide bomber's attack.
Packed with refugees minutes earlier, the attack made this bus a shattered death trap.

Under a swap deal brokered by Iran and Qatar, the residents from al-Foua and Kfraya were being moved into Aleppo in exchange for the relocation of hundreds of Sunni insurgents and their families from government-besieged areas near Damascus.

But a delay in the agreement had left thousands of people evacuated stuck at two transit points on Aleppo’s outskirts since late on Friday.

Opposition activists said plans to evacuate more than 3000 Syrians as part of the deal had now been postponed.

It was not immediately clear if the evacuees feared attacks similar to Saturday’s bombing.

Activist Hussam Mahmoud, who is from Madaya, said the evacuation has been delayed for “logistical reasons.”

UN pledges support for evacuees

The Observatory’s head Rami Abdurrahman said the dead included 109 people from al-Foua and Kfarya, among them 80 children and 13 women.

No one has claimed the attack, but both the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Fatah al-Sham Front have targeted civilians in government areas in the past.

UN relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien said he was “horrified” by the deadly bombing, and that while the UN was not involved in the transfer it was ready to “scale up our support to evacuees”.

He called on all parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, and to “facilitate safe and unimpeded access for the UN and its partners to bring life-saving help to those in need”.

The United Nations is not overseeing the transfer deal, which involves residents of the pro-government villages of al-Foua and Kfarya and the opposition-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani.

All four have been under siege for years, their fate linked through a series of reciprocal agreements that the UN says have hindered aid deliveries.

Residents of Madaya and Zabadani, formerly summer resorts, joined the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Both came under government siege in the ensuing civil war. Residents of al-Foua and Kfraya, besieged by the rebels, have lived under a steady hail of rockets and mortars for years, but were supplied with food and medicine through military airdrops.

After the blast, some 60 buses carrying 2200 people, including 400 opposition fighters, entered areas held by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo, Abdurrahman said. More than 50 buses and 20 ambulances carrying some 5000 Foua and Kfarya residents entered the government-held city of Aleppo, Syrian state TV said, with some of them later reaching a shelter in the village of Jibreen to the south.

Critics say the string of evacuations, which could see some 30,000 people moved across battle lines over the next 60 days, amounts to forced displacement along political and sectarian lines.

Evacuees killed in Syria bomb blast

The blasts blew out the buses’ windows and destroyed nearby cars. Photo: AP