Bomb blast kills at least 10 in Assad stronghold
A large explosion hit a Syrian government-held coastal town yesterday, 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 ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey.
First videos that emerged from the scene in the town of Jableh showed 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 showed pools of blood covering the road as fire engines scrambled 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.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Jableh, which lies in Latakia province, the heartland of Syria's Alawites, a Shiite offshoot to which President Bashar Assad's family also belongs.
Isil and the al-Qai'da-linked Fatah al-Sham Front are not part of the broad truce that the Syrian government and the opposition agreed on last week.
The ceasefire 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 on Wednesday, the Fatah al-Sham Front said the ceasefire was "humiliating" and those who agreed to it had made a "big mistake". Spokesman Hossam al-Shafei also said that major battlefield victories were necessary for a political solution to be reached.
Latakia province police chief Yasser al-Shariti told state TV the explosion happened during rush hour when government employees and students were crowding one of the town's main streets.
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.