Aleppo Evacuations Resume After Alleged Al-Qaeda Attack on Evacuation Buses

AP Photo
The Associated Press

The on-again, off-again evacuation of civilians from Aleppo has resumed, despite an attack on evacuation buses blamed on al-Qaeda’s Syrian operation, the Nusra Front.

Reuters cites the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which in turn relayed Syrian state media reports that “several buses en route to evacuate ill and injured people from the besieged Syrian villages of al-Foua and Kefraya were attacked and burned on Sunday.”

Five buses were reportedly destroyed, while the SOHR said ten other buses were able to depart the villages with evacuees. Meanwhile, 20 busloads of civilians were reportedly able to depart from Aleppo, including seven-year-old Bana Alabed, the little girl whose Tweets from inside the besieged city captured global attention.

These are the Shiite villages under siege by rebel forces, whose civilians were to be evacuated in a deal that would also permit civilians to move out of rebel-held portions of Aleppo. According to the Reuters report, several buses and some Red Crescent medical vehicles were able to reach Foua and Kefraya despite the Nusra Front’s attack.

The Free Syrian Army, the predominant Western-aligned rebel group, denounced the attack on the buses as a “reckless” action that put civilian lives in danger, and said none of its fighters were involved.

Interestingly, Reuters says it was told by some local residents that the Nusra Front was not behind the bus attack. They said it was the work of local pro-government “operatives,” presumably looking to frame rebel forces for atrocious deeds, and perhaps scuttle the latest Aleppo ceasefire.

United Nations humanitarian task force chairman Jan Egeland angrily denounced the bus burnings, without identifying the attackers, beyond calling them “cowardly terrorists” and “reckless armed men”:

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the deployment of monitors to Syria, noting that “urgent humanitarian evacuations and assistance are now needed by a large number of Aleppo inhabitants.” The resolution demanded “safe, immediate, and unimpeded access” to civilians in need of assistance. Russia and China have vetoed most previous Security Council resolutions pertaining to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

During his final press conference as Secretary-General of the United Nations on Friday, Ban Ki-moon called Aleppo “a synonym for hell.”

“We have collectively failed the people of Syria. Peace will only prevail when it is accompanied by compassion, justice and accountability for the abominable crimes we have seen,” he said.