Deadly Bombings Strike Syria’s Homs City – Voice of America

Deadly twin bombings struck the central Syrian city of Homs on Monday, while U.N.-backed evacuations took place Monday in three Syrian towns.


Blasts in Homs’ central al-Zahraa district killed at least 32 people and wounded almost 100 others, according to the Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Authorities said the first blast came from a car bomb; as people gathered to see its impact, a suicide attacker detonated an explosive belt.


It was the second major attack in Homs since a cease-fire deal between warring sides took effect earlier this month, clearing the way for the government to take over the last rebel-controlled area of the city. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.


Meanwhile, the evacuation of three towns has begun, following a U.N.-backed humanitarian deal reached in September between the government and rebels.


The monitoring group said more than 100 fighters in Zabadani, the last rebel bastion on Syria’s border with Lebanon, were headed to Lebanon and Turkey before they will be returned to other parts of Syria. And more than 300 civilians and fighters were leaving the villages of Foua and Kfarya.


A roadmap for Syrian peace


In a rare show of agreement, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on December 18 endorsing an international roadmap for Syrian peace.


On Saturday, U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura said he aimed to convene peace talks January 25 in Geneva.  He said those talks would include the “broadest possible spectrum of the Syrian opposition and others” and that they will require the “full cooperation” of all parties to the conflict.


The statement also said continuing developments on the ground “should not be allowed to derail” peace initiatives.


Geneva was the site of two rounds of U.N.-brokered peace talks early last year between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebels who have been fighting to oust him since 2011.


Those negotiations ended with little progress, and momentum for a peace deal evaporated while the conflict became more complex with the addition of Islamic State militants seizing large portions of eastern Syria.  But in recent months the push for peace has been renewed, including several international meetings bringing together world powers with a commitment to get the warring sides talking again.


Diplomats such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have promoted ending the civil war as the most important step in defeating Islamic State fighters and bringing stability to the region.


More than 250,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, which has forced more than 4 million others to flee the country since it began in 2011.

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