Thousands of evacuated Syrians stuck as transfer stalls

The Syrian government and rebels evacuated more than 7,000 people from four besieged towns Friday in the latest coordinated population transfer in Syria's six-year-long civil war.

"We are not moving forward or backward".

The blast hit the Rashidin area on Aleppo's outskirts, where dozens of buses carrying mostly Shiiite residents of two villages al-Foua and Kefraya that are being evacuated in a deal between warring sides were waiting to enter the city.

At least 39 people are dead after a auto bomb exploded near a convoy carrying evacuees from besieged areas of Syria, human rights groups and Syrian media report.

A senior rebel leader said 20 fighters who guarded the buses were killed as well as dozens of passengers.

The deals are unpopular with the Syrian opposition, who say they amount to forced displacement of Assad's opponents from Syria's main urban centres in the west of the country. Al-Ikhbariya TV said 48 wounded were transported in exchange for allowing five buses of residents from opposition areas to head toward a rebel-controlled province.

Footage from the scene showed bodies, including those of fighters, lying alongside buses, some of which were charred and others gutted from the blast.

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Al-Manar TV says the buses arriving late Saturday are to replace those damaged by the explosion that left at least 39 killed. Yasser Abdellatif, a member of the powerful Ahrar al-Sham group which negotiated the deal, said at least 30 rebels were killed in the explosion.

"The people are restless and the situation is disastrous", said Ahmed Afandar, a resident evacuated from his hometown near Madaya.

Some 5,000 people were evacuated from two pro-government areas near Aleppo, a rebel stronghold that forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad have been trying to recapture. The convoys from Madaya and Zabadani are to head for Idlib.

An opposition representative, Ali Diab, told the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya TV that fewer armed men than agreed to were evacuated from the pro-government areas, violating the terms of the agreement.

The statement said the strikes were against IS positions in Raqqa and Deir el-Zour, and near the Iraqi border.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) is supervising the implementation of the deal, which is described as the biggest population swap of its kind. The Observatory said the delay was caused by the fact that rebels from Zabadani, another town near Damascus included in the deal, had not yet been granted safe passage out. It was not immediately clear if al-Hakim was the same French national USA officials said was killed in an airstrike in Syria in November 2016.

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