BEIRUT (Reuters) - The commander of forces allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday there was still a chance for states with influence over rebel groups to find a solution to the delay in evacuating civilians safely from east Aleppo and four besieged towns.
In a statement carried by a military news outlet run by Damascus's ally Hezbollah, the allied forces leadership said responsibility for the delay in the evacuation deal fell to "terrorists and their state sponsors".
On Sunday armed men burned five buses that were supposed to evacuate people from two villages besieged by rebels, holding up a deal to allow thousands to depart the last rebel pocket in Aleppo. Evacuees were crammed in buses, waiting to move.
The allied forces' leadership said the attack on the buses was "immoral and criminal".
"We respect what we say and we confirm that there is still an opportunity for the states that sponsor, and have influence over the militants and the terrorist groups to find an acceptable solution, based on accelerating the safe departure of civilians in a way satisfactory to all," the statement said.
A first group of people left besieged east Aleppo on Thursday but rebel sources said pro-government Shi'ite militias on Friday opened fire on a convoy carrying evacuees from east Aleppo and robbed them, before returning them to east Aleppo. Nobody has left east Aleppo since then.
The statement said the allied forces did return people to east Aleppo on Friday in order to protect them from protesters who were blocking the road out of Aleppo in support of people in the two besieged villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, demanding people also be evacuated from there.
Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Tom Perry; Editing by Greg Mahlich