Attacks kill 27 in Syrian capital, rebel stronghold

The bomb blast was the deadliest attack in the capital Damascus since 2017

A rare bombing of an army bus in Damascus and a bombing soon after of a rebel-controlled town in northwest Syria killed at least 27 people on Wednesday in the deadliest outbreak of violence for months.

Two bombs planted on an army bus in central Damascus exploded early in the morning killing 14 people, the worst such attack in the capital in four years, the state-run SANA news agency reported.

“A terrorist attack using two explosive devices targeted a passing bus” on a key bridge in Damascus, the state news agency said, reporting at least three people injured.

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SANA cited a military source that the bombs exploded as the bus passed near the Hafez al-Assad Bridge, near the National Museum in the heart of the capital.

“We thought we were done with such attacks. I hope this will be the last bombing.”

Damascus had been largely untouched by such violence in recent years, especially since Allied troops and militias retook the last major rebel stronghold near the capital in 2018.

About an hour after Wednesday’s attack, Syrian army shelling hit the rebel-held town of Ariha in Idlib province.

Four children were among the 13 people killed, the Britain-based war observer said.

“At 8:00 am (05:00 GMT) we woke up to the bombing. The children were terrified and screaming,” said Bilal Trissi, a father of two who lives nearby.

The United Nations children’s agency condemned the bombing, calling it “a reminder that the war in Syria is not over.”

The bombing of Damascus will also challenge the government’s claim that the ten-year-old war is over and stability guaranteed for reconstruction efforts and investment projects to begin in earnest.

Iran’s foreign ministry condemned the “cowardly” attack on Damascus, saying it “will not undermine the resolve of the Syrian government and people in their fight against terrorism.”

Assad’s position once hung by a thread, but Russia’s military intervention in 2015 marked the start of a long and bloody retaliation.

The IS group’s “caliphate” that once straddled parts of Syria and Iraq shrank to death in eastern Syria in early 2019.

It is dominated by the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which includes leaders of the former Syrian al-Qaeda franchise and over which Turkey has some sway.

Also on Wednesday, six members of a pro-government militia were killed in an explosion at an arms depot in central Hama province, the Observatory said.

strawberry / jmm-ho / lg

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