Syria, Damascus: A series of suicide bombs near a Shia shrine in Damascus and in Homs have killed at least 129 people on a day the United States (US) and Russia claimed progress in securing a ceasefire to end the Syrian conflict. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, which has seized territory in Syria and Iraq, claimed it was behind Sunday’s attacks, which killed at least 63 in Damascus and 46 in Homs.
Some sources put the death toll higher. SANA, the official government news agency, said a car bomb followed by two suicide attacks in the area of Sayyida Zeinab shrine killed 83 people and left 178 others, including children, wounded. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a lower toll of 63 dead but said many of those wounded were in critical condition.
The blasts in Damascus came just hours after dozens of civilians were killed in a double car bombing in the central city of Homs. SANA said the attack happened near the entrance to al-Arman neighbourhood, with the Syrian foreign ministry saying that at least 46 people died and dozens were wounded. The Syrian Observatory reported that two car bombs killed at least 57 people and wounded dozens in Homs’ pro-government district of Al-Zahraa. Homs is largely under government control and has regularly been targeted in bomb attacks.
The violence on the ground in Syria came on a day the US secretary of state said a “provisional agreement” had been reached on a ceasefire to end the ongoing war. John Kerry, speaking in Amman alongside Nasser Judeh, Jordan’s foreign minister, said he had spoken earlier that morning with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, about the agreement.
On Saturday, a number of Syrian opposition groups declared that they agree to the “possibility” of a temporary truce if President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its allies respect several conditions, including halting fire. The groups said they would agree provided there were guarantees that government forces and its allies would respect a ceasefire, sieges were lifted and aid deliveries permitted across the country. The fighting in Syria started as an unarmed uprising against Assad in March 2011, but has since expanded into a full-on conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people, according to UN estimates.