BEIRUT: A double bomb attack in Syria’s jihadist-held city of Idlib on Monday killed 17 people, including four children, a war monitor said.
The first blast was caused by a bomb planted under a car in the main city of the Idlib region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
After ambulances arrived at the site, a motorcycle bomb then detonated, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which the Observatory said also wounded at least 51, updating an earlier casualty toll.
Idlib, the last major part of Syria still outside the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, is held by an alliance led by Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
HTS took administrative control of the whole of the region last month, after overpowering smaller Turkey-backed factions. The militant Islamic State group also has sleeper cells in the area.
A local office of the “Salvation Government”, an administrative body created by HTS, is located on the street targeted by Monday’s attack.
Idlib has been protected from a massive regime offensive since September by a buffer zone deal agreed by regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.
But it has been hit by sporadic government shelling.
Besieged IS militants refuse to surrender
More than 300 IS militants surrounded in a tiny area in eastern Syria are refusing to surrender to US-backed Syrian forces and are trying to negotiate an exit, Syrian activists and a person close to the negotiations said on Monday.
The development comes amid the IS group’s last stand in the village of Baghouz, where militants are hiding among hundreds of civilians and preventing them from leaving. It also will likely further delay a declaration on IS’ territorial defeat that US-backed Syrian forces were hoping to make last week.
A person familiar with the negotiations said the militants are asking for a corridor to the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, and demand that they be allowed to leave along with the evacuated civilians.
US-backed Syrian forces call for 1,500 coalition troops to stay
The commander of US-backed forces in Syria called on Monday for about 1,000 to 1,500 international forces to remain in Syria to help fight the militant Islamic State group and expressed hope that the United States, in particular, would halt plans for a total pullout.
The remarks by Mazloum Kobani, the commander-in-chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, followed talks with senior US generals at an airbase in northeast Syria and offered perhaps the most comprehensive view to date of his requests for an enduring military assistance from the US-led coalition.
“We would like to have air cover, air support and a force on the ground to coordinate with us,” Kobani told a small group of reporters who travelled with the US military to an airbase at an undisclosed location in northeast Syria.
With US help, the Kurdish-led fighters are poised to seize IS’s last holdout in eastern Syria.
Kobani said there was discussions about perhaps French and British troops supporting the SDF in Syria. But he stressed he also wanted at least “a partial group of American forces,” who now number more than 2,000 in Syria, to stay as well.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2019