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Evacuation of four Syria towns resumes after deadly bombing

Syrians from the government-held towns of Foua and Kafraya, which have been under crippling militant siege for more than two years, reach buses at the transit point of Rashidin outside Aleppo, on April 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Evacuations of four areas in Syria have resumed days after the process, which is part of a deal between Damascus and militant groups, was interrupted by a bloody attack on a bus convoy carrying people from two Shia-majority villages in Idlib Province.

Some 45 buses carrying 3,000 civilians left the militant-besieged Shia villages of al-Foua and Kefraya near the northwestern city of Idlib on Wednesday morning, Syria’s Central Military Media reported.

A convoy of 11 buses also moved armed men and their families from the town of al-Zabadani in Rif Dimashq Province.

Under the deal reached between the Syrian government and militants in late March, the residents of Foua and Kefraya will be taken to the outskirts of Aleppo City, while the militants and their families will be transferred from Zabadani and Madaya near Damascus to militant-held territory in Idlib.

The evacuation process kicked off on Friday following a brief delay, but it came to a halt a day later when a bomber blew up an explosives-laden car ripping through several buses carrying evacuees from Kefraya and Foua.

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The terrorist attack killed at least 126 people, including 68 children, and injured dozens of others.

On Wednesday, three buses also carried the wounded as well as the bodies of the attack's victims.

Syrians, who were injured in a car bombing that targeted buses carrying evacuees from besieged government-held towns, sit in a tent in Idlib Province on April 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) is supervising the evacuations, which is described as the biggest population swap of its kind.

The agreement also includes a prisoner swap, a ceasefire covering areas south of Damascus and aid deliveries.

Last December, several thousand civilians were allowed to leave Foua and Kefraya under a separate deal between the armed groups and Damascus, which also enabled the evacuation of a militant-held enclave in eastern Aleppo.

Aleppo under attack

Hours after the evacuations resumed, Syrian state television said a bomb explosion ripped through the Salah al-din district in Aleppo City, killing six people and wounding some 32 others.

The report gave no further details of the incident.

The district, located west of Aleppo’s Old City, was part of the last militant enclave in the area until it was liberated by the Syrian army in December 2016.

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