Skip to main content

Attacks kill nearly 60 in Homs, Damascus, Syrian media report

By Laura Smith-Spark and Saad Abedine, CNN
updated 12:04 PM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
Shrapnel holes are visible on cars after a mortar attack Tuesday in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Shrapnel holes are visible on cars after a mortar attack Tuesday in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Mortar and car bomb attacks killed nearly 60 people, report says
  • NEW: A car bombing in Homs' al-Zahra neighborhood kills 40, state news agency says
  • The car bomb hits an Alawite area, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
  • Chemical weapons watchdog says it is investigating chlorine gas attack claims

(CNN) -- At least 58 people in Syria were killed Tuesday in "terrorist" mortar and car bomb attacks in the city of Homs and the Damascus area, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

A car bombing in Homs' al-Zahra neighborhood killed 40, SANA reported, citing an unnamed source in the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, also reported many casualties, including women and children, in the car bomb attack.

It described al-Zahra as an Alawite neighborhood. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is a member of the Alawite religious sect, which is an offshoot of Shia Islam.

In Damascus, mortar rounds hit the al-Shaghour neighborhood. Two slammed into the Badr-Eddin al-Hooni Institute for Islamic Sharia Sciences, killing 14.

Four people were killed in a mortar strike at a center for displaced people in the Damascus countryside. Three of those killed were children.

Scores of people were wounded in the violence.

The unrest comes amid Syria's three-year civil war pitting government forces against rebels trying to end the rule of al-Assad. The government often refers to rebels as armed terrorists bent on destabilizing the country.

The government announced this month that new elections would be held June 3.

But that may not yield any change in a country where al-Assad's family has had a tight grip on power for 43 years. Al-Assad succeeded his father in 2000 and won a second term in 2007, unopposed.

Friends formed through conflict

More than 100,000 people, including many civilians, have been killed in the war.

Chlorine gas attack claims

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced Tuesday that it would investigate claims the Syrian government may have used chlorine gas in a deadly attack on its people this month in Hama province.

"The Syrian government, which has agreed to accept this mission, has undertaken to provide security in areas under its control," the OPCW said. "The mission will carry out its work in the most challenging circumstances."

The team is expected to leave for Syria soon and has the backing of the United Nations, the statement added.

If confirmed, a chlorine attack would undermine a deal brokered by Russia last fall and approved by the U.N. Security Council that requires Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to the international community.

The agreement halted threats of U.S. military action after allegations Syria launched a chemical attack last August that killed over 1,400 people. Al-Assad and other officials have vehemently denied their forces were responsible.

The Syrian opposition does not have helicopters to carry and deliver such weapons, and has been trading accusations with the government about the April 11 incident.

Controversy followed video clips posted on anti-government websites showing a number of civilians, including children, appearing to have difficulty breathing and using oxygen masks. The chemical symbol for chlorine, Cl2, is visible on the side of a canister that opposition activists say was used in the attack.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week that the United States "had indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical, probably chlorine, in Syria this month in the opposition-dominated village of Kfar Zeita."

She added, "We're examining allegations that the government was responsible."

Analyst: 'A likely deliberate tactic'

In a report Tuesday, analyst Firas Abi Ali of IHS Country Risk cited several claims in international and opposition social media that the Syrian government has stepped up its use of chlorine gas against civilian and military targets in Idlib, Hama and Damascus provinces since April 15.

IHS has not been able to confirm the reports independently, he said, but they have been corroborated by videos showing civilians suffering symptoms associated with chemical weapons use.

"If confirmed, it indicates that Assad assesses that he can use these weapons with impunity, given U.S. unwillingness to intervene directly, and reflects his own forces' overstretch in the face of opposition offensives in Daraa, Aleppo and Latakia," he said.

"Moreover, the use of chemical weapons is a likely deliberate tactic intended to highlight to the civilian population the severe cost of supporting the insurgency."

Chlorine is not listed as a chemical that Syria is expected to give up under the Security Council resolution. But its use as a weapon of war is prohibited under the 1925 Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria has signed.

More than 90% of Syria's chemical weapons material has now been removed or destroyed, the OPCW said Thursday, ahead of the June 30 deadline agreed to under the international deal.

Read: Syrian opposition: Army helicopter drops barrel bombs in Aleppo, killing 24

Read: Opinion: Forget Ukraine, Syria is now the world's biggest threat

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
updated 12:22 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 12:16 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT