Syria sees its deadliest day in months, with at least 24 killed in Idlib, Damascus incidents

A bloody day in Syria shook a relative calm that had taken hold in the war-torn country in recent months. While the conflict remains unresolved, a decade later, military activities had subsided.

UN decries 'shocking' government shelling that kills 10, while bombs leave 14 dead in the capital

A Syrian military police member places a damaged vehicle on a tow truck at the site of an explosion in central Damascus on Wednesday. (Firas Makdesi/Reuters)

Two bombs attached to a bus carrying Syrian troops exploded in Damascus during the morning rush hour Wednesday, a military official said. Fourteen people were killed in the attack, one of the deadliest in the capital in years.

While the Syrian government's decade-long conflict with insurgents continues in parts of the country, including the rebel-held northwest, bombings in Damascus have become exceedingly rare since President Bashar al-Assad's troops pushed opposition fighters from the capital's suburbs in 2018.

Shortly after the Damascus bombings, government shells landed in a rebel-held town in northern Syria, killing at least 10 people, four of them children. The attack, part of the government campaign to regain control of areas still in opposition hands, was the worst violence in the region since a truce in March last year was negotiated by Turkey and Russia, allies of the opposition and Syrian government, respectively.

The bloody day in Syria shook a relative calm that had taken hold in the war-torn country in recent months. While the conflict remains unresolved a decade on, military activities had subsided in recent months.

'A cowardly act' 

Assad-backed forces now control much of Syria after military support from allies Russia and Iran helped tip the balance of power in his favour. U.S. and Turkish troops, meanwhile, are deployed in parts of the country's north.

No one claimed responsibility for the Damascus attack, which occurred at a main bus transfer point under a bridge, where vehicles converge and head out to different neighbourhoods of the capital.

"It is a cowardly act," Damascus police commander Maj. Gen. Hussein Jumaa told state TV, noting that a police force had cordoned off the area immediately and made sure there were no more bombs. He urged people to inform authorities about any suspicious object they see.

Syrian municipal workers clean up after the Damascus bombing, as a mural depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen in the background. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria's conflict that began in March 2011 has left more than 350,000 people dead and displaced half the country's population, including five million who are refugees abroad.

4 children among dead

In rebel-held northwest Syria, rescue workers reported 10 people were killed, including four children and a woman, in government shelling of a town in the last rebel enclave in the country's northwest.

United Nations deputy regional humanitarian co-ordinator Mark Cutts described as "shocking" the reports of the shelling that hit a market and roads near schools as students were heading to classes.

One of the people who died was also a teacher for the children who died, according to UNICEF, the UN children's agency.

A wounded man receives treatment at the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) hospital in the Syrian city of Idlib in the rebel-held northwestern province after Wednesday's shelling. (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)

"Today's violence is yet another reminder that the war in Syria has not come to an end. Civilians, among them many children, keep bearing the brunt of a brutal decade-long conflict," the agency said.

The attack was one of the most violent since the 2020 truce in the northwest, which has been repeatedly violated. Government forces often vow to take territories still out of their control.

Wednesday's shelling in the northwest hit the town of Ariha, in Idlib province, which is mostly controlled by rebel groups, including the dominant Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, once affiliated with al-Qaeda.

The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, said aside from the 10 killed, 20 more were wounded when dozens of shells landed in the town. The rescuers said they were still searching through the wreckage for survivors.

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"It was a horrifying and very tiring day," said Wael el-Hussein, a surgeon in Idlib who drove past the scene of the shelling minutes before it happened. He spent hours in the hospital afterwards operating on or otherwise treating several people.

"Every time I remember how busy the street was, with boisterous kids and women in the markets and young men going to work — every time I remember that, I can't comprehend," said el-Hussein.