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Syria resumes reciprocal evacuations after deadly bombing

BEIRUT — The evacuation of thousands of Syrians from four besieged areas resumed Wednesday, state media and activists said, days after a bombing killed more than 120 evacuees and delayed the widely criticized population transfer. Another 11 buses carrying some 500 people, including opposition fighters, left Madaya and Zabadani, near Damascus, heading toward the northern rebel-held Idlib province. Some thirty hours after the first two batches reached exchange points, a massive explosion struck near buses carrying evacuees from the pro-government areas, killing more than 120, mostly women and children. Reflecting fears of further violence, Amer Burhan, a medical worker from Zabadani, said buses carrying residents from the pro-government areas were held in the opposition areas until the buses carrying rebels had departed. Critics say the string of evacuations, which could see some 30,000 people moved across battle lines over the next 60 days, rewards siege tactics and amounts to forced displacement along political and sectarian lines. [...] Wednesday, Israeli defense officials said Syria still has up to 3 tons of chemical weapons in the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.

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