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45 killed in ISIS attack on Syrian neighbourhood; peace talks at stake

ISIS attack on Damascus
Syrian pro-regime forces and residents look over the grim aftermath of a triple bombing by ISIS near a revered Shiite shrine outside Damascus on Sunday

In a recent triple bombing on Syrian capital Damascus’s predominantly Shiite neighbourhood, 45 were killed and dozens injured.

Syrian Prime Minister, Wael al-Halqi has said, “The aim of this cowardly and desperate terrorist attack is to raise the morale of the defeated terrorist groups following the great victories that our brave army has accomplished in several areas”.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack targeted a bus full of Shiite militiamen — 42 of those killed were fighters with ties to the Syrian government. Attackers first detonated a car bomb near a bus stop, and as people rushed in to help, two suicide bombers set off more explosives. The attack occurred in the Sayeda Zeinab district, which is home to one of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims. The shrine was undamaged.

State TV showed several burning cars and a scorched bus, as well as blown out windows, twisted metal and large holes in the facade of a nearby apartment building.
The suburb is one of the first areas where Lebanon’s Hezbollah group sent fighters in 2012 to protect it from Sunni extremists who vowed to blow up the shrine. Hezbollah and Shiite groups from Iraq are known to have fighters in the area.

A website affiliated with the Islamic State group said the attacks were carried out by members of the Sunni Muslim extremist group, which controls large areas in both Syria and Iraq.

The attacks occurred at a crucial time when the UN is trying to start peace talks between the government and terror groups like ISIS. In this regard, the Syrian government delegation is in Geneva to hold talks with UN envoy. The attack might overshadow the peace talks.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to both sides “to make the most of this moment, to seize the opportunity for serious negotiations, to negotiate in good faith with the goal of making concrete measurable progress in the days immediately ahead.”

“Now, while battlefield dynamics can affect negotiating leverage, in the end there is no military solution to this conflict,” Kerry said. “Without negotiations, the bloodshed will drag on until the last city is reduced to rubble and virtually every home, every form of infrastructure, and every semblance of civilization is destroyed.”

The U.N.’s goal for these meetings is to impose a cease-fire and find a political solution to the Syrian war, which has killed at least 250,000 people, among them yesterday’s victims.