Twin suicide bombings rock Damascus as war enters seventh year

Two suicide bombings hit the Syrian capital on Wednesday, including an attack at a central courthouse that killed at least 32 people, as the country's war entered its seventh year.

Published: 15th March 2017 09:59 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th March 2017 09:59 PM   |  A+A-

People walk through mounds of rubble which used to be high rise apartment buildings in Syria.(File photo | AP)

War-torn Syria. (File photo | AP)


DAMASCUS: Two suicide bombings hit the Syrian capital Damascus on Wednesday, including an attack at a central courthouse that killed at least 32 people, as the country's war entered its seventh year.

In northern Syria, 14 children were among 21 people killed in an air strike on Idlib city, a monitor said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, the second wave of deadly attacks in the capital in less than a week, after twin bombings Saturday that killed 74 people.

Wednesday's first attack saw a suicide bomber rush inside the building and blow himself up when police tried to prevent him from entering the courthouse in the centre of Damascus, state media reported.

A police source told AFP that 32 people were killed and 100 wounded.

"I heard a commotion and looked to my left and I saw a man in a military vest," a man with a bandage over his eye told state television after the attack.

"He had his hands up and screamed 'God is greatest' and then the blast happened," he added.

"I fell to the ground and blood came out of my eye."

State television broadcast images from inside the courthouse, showing blood smeared across the marble floor of the lobby, with a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad still intact and hanging above.

Blood was also splattered across the ceiling, and bits of broken glass, wood and pieces of paper littered the floor.

- Streets deserted -

The second blast hit a restaurant in the Rabweh district in the west of the city less than two hours later, and injured 25 people, the police source said.

State media said the bomber had ducked into the restaurant after being chased by security services.

In the wake of the attacks, AFP correspondents in the city said the streets were deserted, with some roads blocked off by security services.

The bloodshed also continued elsewhere in the country, with 21 people including 14 children killed in an air strike in Idlib city in northwestern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

The Britain-based group said the strikes on the city, which is controlled by jihadists and their Islamist allies, were believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information, says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, with Assad's government now holding the upper hand in the bloody war and rebel forces increasingly divided and dispirited.

In recent months, the opposition has suffered a series of reversals, including being forced from their one-time stronghold of east Aleppo in December.

And peace talks have made little progress towards resolving the conflict, with rebels declining to even attend a latest round of negotiations in Kazakhstan which wrapped up Wednesday.

The conflict began in 2011 with peaceful demonstrations inspired by similar movements during the so-called "Arab Spring", calling on Assad to implement reforms.

They were put down violently, prompting demonstrators to pick up weapons and causing the uprising to spiral into a complex and brutal civil war.

- 'Savage horror' -

Rebel forces initially captured large parts of the country and several key cities, and won support from international backers including Washington, Turkey and the Gulf states.

But the Islamic State jihadist group emerged from the chaos to seize control of significant territory in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

And in September 2015, government ally Russia began a military intervention in support of Assad, helping his forces regained much of the ground they had lost.

Under pressure from air strikes by a US-led coalition, IS has also retreated to bastions like its de facto Syrian capital Raqa.

The opposition's backers have dialled back support, with Turkey now working alongside Russia on peace talks, and US President Donald Trump's administration has backed away from the conflict.

The war's brutality has provoked international outcry, with the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein this week describing Syria as "a torture chamber, a place of savage horror and absolute injustice." 

It has left ordinary Syrians, including many who supported the uprising, desperate for relief.

"When we began to demonstrate, I never thought it would come to this. We thought it would end in two, three months, a year at most," Abdallah al-Hussein, a 32-year-old footballer from the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province, told AFP.

"Whether this war is ended with weapons or peacefully doesn't matter. People want to live in peace."


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