The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for multiple bombings on Sunday, which left at least 140 people dead in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs.
Syrian state media reported least 83 people were killed and at least 170 wounded in at least four blasts in the Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab, according to the BBC.
Earlier in Homs, two car bombs exploded in an area that’s home to many Alawites, the minority sect of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bombs killed 57 people. Syria’s Foreign Ministry said at least 46 people died.
The blasts wrecked cars in a central district of Homs, where rescue crews have worked to help victims of the attack. The force of the explosion destroyed windows and walls on nearby buildings and left a crater in the street.
NPR’s Alison Meuse reports for our Newscast unit:
“The twin car bombs targeted Zahraa neighborhood of Homs, where pro-regime militias hold sway. Last month, ISIS claimed a similar double suicide attack on the area.
“Homs was once known as the capital of the Syrian revolution. The mass protests of 2011 were met with fire and steadily morphed into an armed rebellion. In the years that followed, government warplanes reduced much of the city to rubble — and the rebels to one besieged enclave. But the city remains vulnerable to suicide attacks.”
The attack comes on the same day negotiators are reporting progress in talks about reaching a ceasefire in Syria.
Secretary of State John Kerry says a “provisional agreement” has been reached on a ceasefire — but the AP notes that as Kerry described a productive talk with Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, he also reiterated that the U.S. will not enter into a military alliance with Assad.
It’s now up to Russia to speak to Assad, Kerry said. On Saturday, Assad told Spanish newspaper El Pais that he will “definitely” accept a cessation of hostilities.
But Assad also said that a truce can’t be used by terrorists to improve their positions, and he listed other concerns about how a ceasefire is implemented. From the interview transcript:
“Q. So, there will be still some fighting even though there’s this ceasefire, at least against some of the armed groups?
A. Yes, of course, like ISIS, like Al-Nusra, and other organizations or terrorist groups that belong to Al Qaeda. Now, Syria and Russia have announced four names: Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam [Army of Islam] and Al-Nusra and ISIS.”
As NPR’s Alice Fordham reminds us, in her report for Newscast:
“A group of international leaders earlier this month made a statement of a provisional agreement for a ceasefire but it was not implemented, although there has been some improvement in aid access. An amped-up Syrian government and Russian air campaign in northern Syria has displaced tens of thousands in recent weeks. Rebel commanders tell NPR they will not stop fighting as long as airstrikes continue.”