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Buses for Aleppo refugees were burned, halting evacuations again

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Evacuations from eastern Aleppo were set to begin Sunday under  new people-swap deal, but they were quickly halted when a number of buses ready for evacuations were set on fire, according to reports from Syrian state media and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The buses were ready to leave from the neighboring  Idlib province at around noon local time.

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In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, smoke rises in green government buses, in Idlib province, Syria, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. Activists said, militants have burned at least five buses assigned to evacuate wounded and sick people from two villages in northern Syria. The incident could scuttle a wider deal that encompasses the evacuation of thousands of trapped rebel fighters and civilians from the last opposition foothold in east Aleppo. (SANA via AP)

Activists said, militants have burned at least five buses assigned to evacuate wounded and sick people from two villages in northern Syria. It's unclear at this point who, if anyone, was in the buses.

The new deal, which was struck Saturday, was mediated by Turkey after two previous ceasefires foiled. The new three-stage deal will give civilians, rebels and others loyal to the opposition safe passage from eastern Aleppo, now almost entirely in government control.

Rebels claim Iranian militia groups brought earlier evacuations to a halt.

This left thousands stranded in freezing weather during two days of negotiations.

UN humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland took to Twitter to respond to the burning of buses.

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