Syria car bombing kills 40

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Updated 28 December 2013
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Syria car bombing kills 40

BEIRUT: At least 40 people, including three children, were killed Monday when a car bomb exploded in the town of Darkush in northwestern Syria, near the Turkish border, an NGO said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which had earlier reported a toll of 20, said the number of casualties was expected to rise due to the large number of people who suffered serious injuries.
“The toll has risen to 40 dead, including three children and a woman, as a result of a car bomb blast,” said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on activists across the country for its reports.
Activists from the Syrian Revolution General Commission network said the blast took place in the market area of Darkush, which is under rebel control. The Observatory confirmed the report.
A video posted online by activists showed the aftermath of the blast, with at least one car ablaze and the ground around it covered with smoking embers. A second video showed residents carrying bodies on makeshift stretchers and extensive damage to buildings around the blast site.
Darkush, which lies on the Orontes river, is just a few km from the border with Turkey.
The Syrian opposition National Coalition condemned the “terrorist bombing” in a statement, noting that it came a day before the beginning of Eid Al-Adha.
“The Coalition points the finger at the regime of (Syrian President) Bashar Assad, which is trying to create confusion and chaos and provoke tensions in the ranks of the rebels, as well as take revenge against civilians for defeats of the army,” the Coalition said.
Meanwhile, four of seven aid workers abducted in Syria have been freed, the Red Cross said on Monday, but there was no word on the fate of the other three whose kidnapping highlights the risk to continuing humanitarian work in a country fragmented by war.
Robert Mardini, head of ICRC operations for the Near and Middle East, said in a tweet the four were “safe and sound” after their abduction on Sunday.
ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said they had been released in the Idlib region, a near-lawless area in northeast Syria where hundreds of militia operate, but did not elaborate on the circumstances.
The ICRC was awaiting information on the remaining three, he said. The six Red Cross workers and local Red Crescent volunteer were abducted by unidentified gunmen as they were returning to Damascus after a four-day mission to deliver medical supplies. “Of course this type of incident is terrible because it is disruptive and puts in jeopardy our operations in Syria,” Mardini told Reuters in Geneva hours before the partial release.
The growing risk of kidnappings means that their foreign staff have reduced their presence in Syria.


Temporary humanitarian ceasefire in Daesh-held area of south Damascus

Updated 39 min 55 sec ago
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Temporary humanitarian ceasefire in Daesh-held area of south Damascus

BEIRUT: A temporary humanitarian ceasefire is in place to allow women, children and the elderly to evacuate the Daesh-held area of Al-Hajjar Al-Aswad in south Damascus, Syrian state media said on Monday citing a military source.
The Syrian army and its allies have been battling for weeks to recapture the tiny Daesh enclave, the last area outside government control in or around the capital.
On Sunday, state media denied a war monitor’s report that fighters had begun withdrawing from the area toward Daesh territory in eastern Syria under a surrender deal.
The temporary ceasefire came into effect on Sunday night and will end at 12pm and the army offensive will start again immediately, state media cited the military source as saying.
The war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported early on Monday that buses had already started leaving south Damascus for the Daesh areas in eastern Syria.
The ultra-hardline militant group now controls only the tiny pocket in south Damascus and two besieged desert areas in eastern Syria, while another insurgent group that has pledged loyalty to it holds a small enclave in the southwest.
Pro-Syrian government forces have staged an intensive operation to recover Daesh’s south Damascus pocket in Al-Hajjar Al-Aswad and the adjacent Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp since driving rebels from eastern Ghouta in April.