At least 19 people were been killed by a series of car bombs in Damascus on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has said.
A suicide attacker, surrounded by authorities, prompted the first explosion in Tahrir Square. The following two car bombings were controlled and later detonated under the instruction of security forces, according to state media.
A local resident told the AFP news agency he heard “gunfire at around 06:00, then an explosion which smashed the glass of houses in the neighbourhood.”
Of the 19 fatalities currently reported by the SOHR, two are civilians and another seven have been identified as members of pro-government security forces. A further 12 people have been injured in Sunday’s attacks, authorities have said. However, the remaining victims are yet to be identified.
Syrian authorities have said the number of casualties was limited due to security forces preventing “terrorists from reaching their targets.” According to state TV, police chased the three suspected car bombers as they attempted to enter the capital.
This latest bombing has been classified as the biggest attack since March of this year. The March 15 attacks targeted the Justice Palace in Damascus and a restaurant in another area of the city. The bombings claimed the lives of 32 people and injured numerous others. As well, days before the March attacks, another two explosions killed 74 people in the capital, Old City. The bombings were claimed by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, led by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
Two Syrians, who are allegedly working for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, coordinated the March attacks. With that said, ISIL has not yet claimed responsibility for the most recent bombings, nor has any other rebel group.
Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Gaziantep, said that “This is the largest bombing to hit Damascus in about three months, and it came when life was starting to return to normal. People were returning to work and school after the Eid al-Fitr holiday.”
Damascus rarely experiences such attacks, with forces loyal to the regime of Bashar al-Assad driving rebels from Aim Terma, a rebel stronghold on the eastern outskirts of the capital. However, attacks are much more prevalent on the outskirts of the city, where rebel forces and ISIL control much of the area.
On another note, more than 300,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, which began as a result of anti-government protests in March 2011. According to the UN refugee agency, 5.5 million people have fled the country and another 6.3 million have been left internally displaced since the conflict began 6 years ago.
With that said, more people are expected to be displaced as IS loses its territory and resorts to attacking soft targets outside of Syria’s capital in its attempts to evoke government instability.
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