Kerry’s announcement of Syria ceasefire punctuated by ISIL car bomb, killing 119

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A pair of car bombings in Syria claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) killed 119 people just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had announced a provisional deal for a ceasefire.

Two car bombings killed at least 57 people and wounded dozens in the Al-Zahraa district of Homs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrians gather at the site of a double car bomb attack in the Al-Zahraa neighborhood of Homs on Feb. 21. /FP
Syrians gather at the site of a double car bomb attack in the Al-Zahraa neighborhood of Homs on Feb. 21. /FP

Al-Zahraa, whose residents are mostly from the same Alawite sect as Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been regularly targeted by ISIL jihadists.

Near Damascus, a series of bomb attacks, including a car bombing, devastated the area of the Sayyida Zeinab Shi’ite shrine, killing 62 people, the Observatory said.

The attacks were the worst since twin blasts in October 2014 hit a school, killing at least 55 people, including 49 children.

In an online statement, ISIL said two of its jihadists drove explosive-laden cars into crowds of residents in Al-Zahraa. It also said two of its suicide bombers carried out the Sayyida Zeinab bombings.

The terror bombings came as Kerry said he and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had worked out an agreement on how to implement a ceasefire.

“We have reached a provisional agreement, in principle, on the terms of the cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days,” Kerry said in Amman, Jordan.

“It is not yet done and I anticipate that our presidents, President (Barack) Obama and President (Vladimir) Putin, may well speak somewhere in the next days or so in order to try to complete this task.”

A key Syrian opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said it would agree to a temporary truce only if Assad regime forces and their allies halted fire.

HNC leader Riad Hijab said any ceasefire must be reached “with international mediation and with guarantees obliging Russia, Iran and their sectarian militias and mercenaries to stop fighting.”

Assad told Spain’s El Pais newspaper he was “ready” for a ceasefire, but said it should not be exploited by “terrorists.” (The Assad regime considers pretty much all who oppose it to be terrorists.)