Update: Multiple sources confirm bombers have also targeted SAA and Hezbollah positions in Damascus. 22 are now reported killed. ISIS has now claimed responsibility.
— ??????? ???????? (@miladvisor) February 21, 2016
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) February 21, 2016
— SAA Reporter (@Syria_Protector) February 21, 2016
"We have reached a provisional agreement in principle on the terms of a cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days,” John Kerry said on Sunday, at a news conference in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
Kerry was in contact with Sergei Lavrov today and the two diplomats reportedly agreed on “the modalities” for a ceasefire - whatever that means.
Although this is being reported by both the Western and Russian media as though it marks some kind of turning point, Russia again reiterated that any deal won’t include “the terrorists” and Moscow’s list of “terrorists” in Syria is a bit longer than Washington’s list. While Lavrov indicated that The Kremlin would refer to the UN Security Council’s list of terrorist groups, the situation on the ground is so fluid in Syria that it’s fairly easy to target whomever you please and claim there were terrorists in the area because frankly, there are terrorists, militants, and Sunni extremists virtually everywhere.
Even Kerry himself admitted the ceasefire would likely have no effect. "I do not believe that in the next few days, during which time we try to bring this into effect, there is somehow going to be a tipping point with respect to what is happening on the ground.... The opposition has made clear their determination to fight back," he said.
Indeed, efforts to curtail the fighting are off to a rather inauspicious start. 46 people were killed in Homs on Sunday after two car bombs hit the city center's Zahra district. Charred bodies lay smoldering in the wreckage and more than 100 injured bystanders stumbled through the streets, shell shocked. “The explosions at a traffic light at al-Siteen Street in the al-Zahra neighborhood happened within minutes of each other,” RT reports. “At least one of the two blasts was triggered by a suicide bomber driving a car.”
Although no one immediately claimed responsibility, ISIS is the likely culprit. The group killed 26 people in Homs less than a month ago in a similar attack. Here are visuals from the scene:
— CCTVNEWS (@cctvnews) February 21, 2016
— The 'Nimr' Tiger (@Souria4Syrians) February 21, 2016
"Sunday's attacks also came a day after government advances against Islamic State," Reuters notes, an apparent reference to the SAA's push towards Raqqa, Bakr al-Baghdadi's self-styled capital.
Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad said Saturday that he's prepared to halt military operations on the condition that "the terorrists" don't use a lull in the fighting to their advantage. "The issue relates to more important factors ... such as preventing terrorists from using it to improve their positions," he told El Pais. He also said a ceasefire was impossible unless the Turks and the Saudis stop sending fighters, money, and guns to Sunni militants. "Other countries, especially Turkey, are prevented from sending more terrorists and weapons, or any kind of logistical support."
Yes, no more "logisitcal support." Like shelling Azaz to keep the YPG from routing the rebels and consolidating gains in the north. Asked by El Pais about the possibility that Ankara, Riyadh, Doha may send ground troops, Assad said only this: "We're going to deal with them like we deal with the terrorists."
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In light of the latest attack in Homs, we thought it an opportune time to repost the following images which depict just how desolate the city has become.