An explosive-laden truck detonated in Syria on Tuesday, killing at least 19 civilians and wounding more than 80 others. The explosion occurred near a bus station in al-Bab, about 40 kilometres east of Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city. Images and videos shared on social media depict large plumes of smoke and extensive damage. Members of the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue organization in Syria, were quickly on the scene and began a widespread search for potential survivors among the rubble.
Many took to social media to express concern and condemn the horrific bombing. Mark Cutts, a senior United Nations Humanitarian official, tweeted, “We condemn in the strongest terms these ongoing indiscriminate attacks on civilians”. Imran Riza, a humanitarian coordinator for Syria, and Kevin Kennedy, regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syrian crisis, both expressed their condolences to the victims and their families. They also joined many other officials in urging all parties involved in the conflict in Syria to adhere to their obligations to ensure the safety of civilians.
It is still unclear who is responsible for the attack. However, local security forces are focusing their investigations on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The latter of which is listed as a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States. It is estimated that the PKK is responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people—many of which are innocent civilians.
Tuesday’s deadly explosion is the latest in a string of attacks in al-Bab since its 2017 capture by rebels and Turkish troops. Up until then, al-Bab was one of the western-most strongholds of the Islamic State Group’s territorial control. Several international actors, including the European Union and the United States, have continued to condemn the ongoing violence against civilians in Syria. However, this has been to no avail. Over 380,000 people have died and an estimated 6.2 million people have been internationally displaced in Syria as a result of the ongoing conflict. Devasting car bombings similar to Tuesday are becoming all too frequent. Last November, the BBC reported that a car bombing linked to the Syrian Kurdish peoples’ protection unit involved 18 civilian deaths. Just last month, another vehicle detonated close to Ras al-Ayn, killing another seven.
While the details of Tuesday’s incident remain hazy, one thing is clear— civilians in Syria are not safe. The frequency and severity of deadly car bombings suggest that groups like the PKK have a blatant disregard for any obligation to the Syrian people. The international response to date has not done enough to stop the suffering and deprivation endured by civilians. The people of Syria deserve peace.