Death toll rises to 43 from Damascus bombings at courthouse and restaurant

Published March 16th, 2017 - 09:00 GMT
Syrian security forces and journalists stand inside the old palace of justice building in Damascus following a reported suicide bombing on March 15, 2017. (AFP/Louai Beshara)
Syrian security forces and journalists stand inside the old palace of justice building in Damascus following a reported suicide bombing on March 15, 2017. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

Two suicide bombings in Damascus targeting a court complex and a restaurant left 43 people dead and 117 wounded Wednesday as Syria's devastating civil war entered its seventh year.

At least 39 people were killed in the first bombing that hit a court complex in the centre of the Syrian capital, a police source told dpa, while four people were killed in the second suicide attack at a restaurant in north-western Damascus.

"Ninety-two people were wounded in the first blast that rocked the Justice Palace, while 25 others were injured in the restaurant attack in the neighbourhood of al-Rabwa," the police source said.

The Justice Palace, where a bomber blew himself up, houses several courtrooms and the chief prosecutor's office.

Syrian state news agency SANA said that the bomber, dressed in military uniform, was carrying a gun and a hand grenade.

He was stopped by guards at the gate of the Justice Palace building. When asked to hand over his weapons, he ran towards the entrance of the lobby and blew himself up, SANA reported.

Syrian television broadcast footage from the site, showing pools of blood covering the floor of the lobby.

Residents of the surrounding al-Mezze district said they heard a powerful blast. "The explosion shook our buildings and shortly after we saw black smoke," one of them told dpa by phone.

The fatalities in the first attack included 24 civilians, said Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.

Later in the day, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt inside a restaurant in northwestern Damascus in the neighborhood of al-Rabwa, SANA reported.

The bomber entered the restaurant after being chased, along with two other suspects, by security forces, a security official told dpa. The two suspects were arrested.

There has been no claim of responsibility for either bombing, the latest in a series of attacks in Damascus.

On Saturday, 74 people - 54 civilians and 20 security personnel - were killed in twin bombings that hit a religious site, frequented by Shiite Muslims, in the capital.

A hardline alliance led by al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fatah al-Sham claimed responsibility for Saturday's bombings.

Elsewhere in Syria, 25 people, including 14 children, were killed after jets, believed to be Russian, bombarded a rebel area in the north-western city of Idlib, the Britain-based Observatory said.

The dead included a man and 13 members of his and his brother's families in Idlib's al-Kousor district, according to the watchdog.

The Syrian conflict started with peaceful anti-government protests in mid-March 2011 that quickly descended into a full-blown war.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) described the worsening humanitarian situation in the besieged town of Madaya on the outskirts of Damascus.

"People are lacking any kind of proper heating or any means to cook, as there is a lack of fuel and no electricity whatsoever," Ingy Sedky, ICRC's spokeswoman in Damascus, told dpa.

More than 25,000 people are estimated to be living in Madaya and Zabadani, which have been under siege by Syrian government forces and its allies from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

On Tuesday, a joint convoy of the ICRC, Syrian Arab Red Crescent and United Nations entered Madaya and Zabadani, carrying food and medical supplies.

Aid trucks simultaneously entered Foua and Kefraya, towns in the province of Idilb that are besieged by rebels.

ICRC's Sedky stressed that the food aid that they managed to get into the four towns will only last about a month.

"It is important for humanitarian organizations to have regular access to the four besieged towns. Waiting four or five months is way too long," Sedky said.

By Weedah Hamzah and Khalil Hamlo

© 2022 dpa GmbH

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