A huge car bomb has blasted a convoy of coaches carrying evacuees from government-held towns in Syria, killing at least 39 people, state media report.
It shattered coaches and set cars on fire, leaving a trail of bodies including children, as the convoy waited in rebel territory at Rashidin.
Russian troops have reportedly moved to shield rebel evacuees from retaliation.
Thousands of evacuees from both sides of Syria’s civil war have been stuck in hostile territory since Friday.
The “Four Towns” deal was meant to relieve suffering in areas under siege.
Some 30,000 besieged people would be taken out of two rebel-held towns and two under government control but, according to AFP news agency, up to 5,000 government evacuees and 2,200 from rebel towns are now stranded.
Last month, the UN described the situation in the pro-government north-western towns of Foah and Kefraya, and the rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani near Damascus, as “catastrophic”.
More than 64,000 civilians are “trapped in a cycle of daily violence and deprivation”, it said.
The bomb reportedly went off around 15:30 local time (12:30 GMT) at the checkpoint where the handover was due to take place.
Syrian state media reported 39 deaths while the 24Aleppo news site quoted its own source as saying 60 civilians had been killed.
A suicide bomber driving a van supposedly carrying aid supplies blew it up near the coaches, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports. Read Full Story