Thousands of evacuated Syrians stuck as transfer stalls

"Everyone is tense here; we feel like the attacks could start at any time", said one man, asking that his name be withheld to protect the security of family members still in Madaya.

Today's explosion hit an evacuation point south of Aleppo city, where dozens of buses have been parked for more than 30 hours as a much-criticised population transfer deal stalled.

Syrian state TV reported that a bomber blew up an explosive-laden auto at the site.

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

Amer Burhan, the director of Zabadani's field hospital, said he expects the gunmen among the evacuees to resume fighting government forces in northern Syria. 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.

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Pictures posted on state media showed what appeared to be the aftermath of the explosion, with bodies lying on the ground and fires belching out thick black plumes of smoke. Al-Manar TV said the buses were to replace those damaged by the blast.

Syrian state TV says a auto bomb has exploded near buses carrying Syrians evacuated from towns besieged by rebels in northern Syria.

The deal to evacuate government-held Fuaa and Kafraya, and rebel-held Madaya and Zabadani, is the latest such agreement in Syria's six-year civil war. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said government forces entered Madaya after the evacuation Friday.

One of those stranded is Ahmed Afandar from Madaya who has described the situation as "disastrous".

The bloody mayhem that followed the Saturday attack only deepened the resentment of the transfer criticized as population engineering.

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In return, pro-regime fighters and residents from the Shiite villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, both surrounded by Idlib opposition fighters, have left the area and reached Aleppo's outskirts.

When Friday's evacuations are completed, they will be the first in number of rounds stretching over two months to evacuate some 30,000 Syrians from besieged areas.

He said: "The people are restless". "There was no other choice in the end - we were besieged inside a small area in Madaya". "We're sad and angry about what has happened", he said. Assad's Alawite religious minority is often considered an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Overall, tens of thousands of people have been uprooted to Idlib and Aleppo province, where they fear they are being gathered for a final government offensive to defeat them.

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