ISIS Unleashes Attacks As Provisional Ceasefire Deal Reached On Syria
Explosions tore through Damascus and Homs, killing more than 100 people, according to reports
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a string of attacks that tore through the Syrian city of Homs and a Shiite district in Damascus on Sunday, killing more than 100 people.
The violence came as Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that he and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, reached a “provisional agreement” on terms of a ceasefire in the Syrian war. Issues still need to be worked out, Kerry said, but it could pave the way for a truce between warring sides in the five-year-old conflict.
Amaq, an ISIS-linked media agency, said the Damascus attack involved two car bombs and two suicide attackers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 62 people died in the Damascus violence, Reuters reported.
Images posted to social media allegedly showed scenes in the aftermath of the blasts, including a child being carried through the street, and smoke rising, Vocativ discovered.
— الاعلام الحربي (@MilitaryMediaSy) February 21, 2016
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said another 46 people died in a double blast in the city of Homs for which ISIS claimed responsibility.
Islamic State loyalists celebrated the attacks, boasting that “dead Shiite are filling the streets of Damascus and Homs.” “Syria will not be liberated through negotiations and a ceasefire with the apostates and the Crusaders, nor with a document that will be written by the agents of the Cross,” an ISIS loyalist posted on Twitter. “It will be liberated by car bombs and suicide belts.”
The string of violence was the latest in a series of recent ISIS attacks across Syrian towns. Earlier this month, the terror group claimed responsibility for another blast that killed eight people. Last month, it said it carried out a double suicide attack, killing at least 45 people, in the same Shiite district that was targeted on Sunday in Damascus.
Sunday’s heightened violence erupted despite talks of a possible truce. “The modalities for a cessation of hostilities are now being completed,” Kerry said on Sunday, according to the Associated Press. “A cessation of hostilities … is possible over the course of these next hours.” His announcement came days after the U.S., Russia and other international players agreed on a ceasefire within a week of February 12 so that groups could deliver aid to Syrians and peace talks could continue.
Speaking optimistically, Kerry said he had spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and that the two sides were closer to a ceasefire than at any other point yet in discussions, according to reports. Additionally, Spanish newspaper El Pais published an interview with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Sunday in which he said he was ready for a ceasefire as long as Western-backed rebels didn’t take advantage of it to gain more ground.
Since fighting began in Syria in 2011, a shocking 470,000 people have died because of the country’s war, directly or indirectly, a Syrian Center for Policy Research report found. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, 7.6 million people have been internally displaced and 4.1 million fled the country, fueling a migrant crisis. This week alone, Russian and Syrian forces retook at least 10 villages from ISIS near Aleppo. It was part of an offensive that killed at least 500 people since the start of February, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, Al Jazeera reported.