Rashidin (Syria): The death toll from a suicide attack on a crowded bus convoy outside Aleppo has reached at least 126 in the deadliest such incident in Syria in almost a year, a monitoring group said on Monday.
Nearly 70 children were among those killed when a suicide bomber drew his explosives laden vehicle and detonated it near the convoy carrying residents from the northern towns of Fuaa and Kafraya as they waited at a transit point in rebel-held Rashidin, west of Aleppo.
Syrian rescue workers of the Civil Defence said that they had taken away at least 100 bodies from the site of blast.
The evacuations were taking place under a deal between Syrian government and rebels that is also seeing residents and rebels transported out of Madaya and Zabadani, towns near Damascus which are surrounded by pro-government forces.
The agreement is the latest in a string of evacuation deals, which the government of President Bashar al-Assad says are the best way to end the violence after more than six years of civil war.
Body parts and the belongings of evacuees -- including clothes, dishes and even televisions -- were still strewn at the scene of the attack on Sunday, a correspondent said.
The shattered buses were nearby as was the shell of a pick-up truck -- with little left but its engine block -- that was apparently used to carry out the bombing.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria to monitor the conflict, said hundreds of people were also wounded in the blast.
'People crying and shouting'
It said a petrol station at the transit point was caught up in the explosion, adding to the number of victims.
The Syrian Red Crescent said three of its workers were among the wounded.
Maysa al-Aswad, a 30-year-old evacuee from Kafraya, said she was sitting on one of the buses with her six-month-old son Hadi and 10-year-old daughter Narjis when the blast shook the parked convoy.
"Hadi was on my lap and Narjis on a chair next to me. When the explosion happened I hugged them both and we fell to the floor," she said by telephone from near Aleppo.
"I didn't know what was happening, all I could hear was people crying and shouting," she said.
"All I can think about is how we survived all the death during the last few years and then could have died just after we finally escaped."
A wounded girl, who said she lost her siblings in the blast, told Al-Manar TV from her hospital bed that children who had been deprived of food for years in the two villages were approached by a man in the car who told them to come and eat potato chips. She said once many had gathered, there was an explosion that tore some of the children to pieces.
After the blast, some 60 buses carrying 2,200 people, including 400 opposition fighters, entered areas held by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo, the Observatory's Rami Abdurrahman said.
More than 50 buses and 20 ambulances carrying 5,000 Foua and Kfarya residents entered the government-held city of Aleppo, Syrian state TV said, with some of them later reaching a shelter in the village of Jibreen to the south. About 2,200 left Madaya and Zabadani on Friday, the latest in a series of evacuations from the four towns under the agreement.
The evacuation process resumed after the bombing, the Observatory said, with the residents of Fuaa and Kafraya eventually arriving in Aleppo, Syria's second city which the government gained full control of last year.
Wounded survivors, including many children, were taken for treatment at an Aleppo hospital.
'Monstrous, cowardly attack'
UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien condemned the bombing, saying in a statement: "The perpetrators of such a monstrous and cowardly attack displayed a shameless disregard for human life."
Pope Francis on Sunday also urged an end to the war in Syria as he presided over the traditional Easter mass in Rome.
The pontiff said he hoped that Jesus Christ's sacrifice might help bring "comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria, prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death".
UN relief coordinator Stephen O'Brien said he was "horrified" by the bombing, and that while the UN was not involved in the transfer it was ready to "scale up our support to evacuees." He called on all parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, and to "facilitate safe and unimpeded access for the UN and its partners to bring life-saving help to those in need."
Residents of Madaya and Zabadani, formerly summer resorts, joined the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad. Both came under government siege in the ensuing civil war.
Residents of Foua and Kfraya, besieged by the rebels, have lived under a steady hail of rockets and mortars for years, but were supplied with food and medicine through military airdrops.
In eastern Syria, an airstrike by the US-led coalition on the village of Sukkarieh near the border with Iraq killed eight civilians who had earlier fled violence in the northern province of Aleppo, it was reported.