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Car bomb kills 10 in government-held town — Syrian state TV

By AP - Jan 05,2017 - Last updated at Jan 05,2017

BEIRUT — A large explosion hit a Syrian government-held coastal town on Thursday, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens, according to Syria’s state TV. The attack was a major blow to the nearly week-old and already shaky cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey.

First videos that emerged from the scene in the town of Jableh show charred cars, some turned upside down, and extensive damage to shops lining a commercial street crowded with onlookers. Images aired on state Al Ikhbariyah TV show pools of blood covering the asphalt as fire engines were scrambling to put out small fires, apparently caused by the explosion.

Qusay Al Khalil, the head of the local hospital, said the blast also severely wounded at least 30 people. “The explosion rocked the town,” he told state TV, adding that it prompted a state alert at his hospital.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the civil war, put the death toll at 15. The monitoring group relies on a network of activists on the ground in Syria.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Jableh, which lies in the coastal Latakia province, the heartland of Syria’s Alawites, a Shiite offshoot to which President Bashar Assad’s family also belongs.

The Daesh terror group and the Al Qaeda-linked Fatah Al Sham Front are not part of the broad truce that the Syrian government and the opposition agreed on last week.

The cease-fire, which came into effect on December 30, has largely held, except for intense fighting in the Barada Valley outside Damascus, a major source of water for the capital. Both the government and the rebels have accused the other side of violating the truce.

In comments published Wednesday, Syria’s Al Qaeda-linked group said the cease-fire is “humiliating” and that those who agreed to it made a “big mistake”. The Fatah Al Sham Front spokesman Hossam Al Shafei also said major battlefield victories are necessary for a political solution to be reached.

Although explosions are rare in the government-controlled Latakia, Jableh was rocked in May last year by a string of blasts that first hit in a crowded bus station, then outside a hospital receiving the wounded, killing a total of about 120 people. Those attacks, which also came amid another tested ceasefire, were claimed by Daesh.

 

Police chief of Latakia province Yasser Al Shariti told state TV the explosion hit during rush hour when government employees and students were crowding one of the town’s main streets, located near a sports stadium. Others said the area was packed with shoppers, many coming from or going to a popular vegetable market nearby. Jableh has also been home to thousands of internally displaced Syrians who have sought the relative calm of the government-controlled town.

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