- At least 43 people killed in blast at transit point for Syrians being taken to safety
- Suicide bomber was in van supposedly carrying aid supplies
- Shocking footage showed bodies strewn on the ground after the explosion
- It comes two days after Bashar al-Assad denied killing his own citizens in sarin attack
Dozens of people trying to escape villages close to the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo have been killed in an explosion.
The lethal blast, believed to be a car bomb, happened at a transit point for Syrians being taken to safe havens on the outskirts of the city.
Initial reports on Syrian state television claim 43 people died in the explosion in a rebel-held area, and left dozens wounded.
Shocking images of the aftermath show bodies lying on the ground and coaches alight.
The transfer has now resumed after those injured were transported to government areas.
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.
The blast happened days after Syrian president Bashar al-Assad denied carrying out a chemical gas attack on his own citizens.
State television said today’s bombing was carried out by ‘terrorist groups’ – a term the regime applies to all armed opposition groups.
It was not immediately clear if rebels at the transit point were among the dead, but a senior rebel official said 20 rebels who guarded the buses were killed as well as dozens of passengers.
The blast hit buses in the Rashidin area on Aleppo’s outskirts, which had been waiting to cross from rebel-held territory into the government-controlled city itself, carrying people evacuated from two Shi’ite villages on Friday.
The civilians, from the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, were on the move following a deal between warring sides supposed to see 30,000 civilians taken to safety.
A statement from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said: ‘The suicide bomber was driving a van supposedly carrying aid supplies and detonated near the buses.’
It warned that the death toll was likely to rise given the ‘several dozen wounded’ at the blast site.
The blast hit the Rashidin area on Aleppo’s outskirts, where dozens of buses carrying mostly Shi’ite residents of the two villages are being evacuated.
The victims are believed to have left the villages a day earlier. The evacuation deal was brokered by Iran and Qatar.
Around 5,000 people piled onto buses leaving Fuaa and Kafraya while a further 2,200 were evacuated from rebel-held Madaya and Zabadani.
But thousands were stuck on the road Saturday in rebel-held Rashidin, west of Aleppo, where the bombing took place.
Last week footage of dead children and victims foaming at the mouth in the aftermath of a chemical attack sent shockwaves across the world, and prompted US President Donald Trump to order the bombing of a Syrian air base.
An estimated 87 people died in the Idlib province last Tuesday in an attack which has been blamed on Assad’s regime.
On Thursday this week, Assad, who faces calls to be tried as a war criminal, suggested video footage of the alleged atrocity could be fake, and said: ‘The story is not convincing by any means’.
He insisted it was ‘not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now.’
Tests on the site of the atrocity uncovered traces of nerve gas sarin.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner dismissed Assad’s comments, stating: ‘It is an attempt by him to throw up false flags, create confusion. Frankly it’s a tactic we’ve seen on Russia’s part as well in the past.
‘There can be little doubt that he recent attack and the chemical weapons attack in Idlib was by the Syrian government – by the Syrian regime.’ He added: ‘It was, we believe, a war crime.’
British Prime Minister Theresa May today said it was ‘highly likely’ that Assad’s regime carried out the attack, which was branded an ‘affront to humanity’ by Trump.
Source: Mail Online