29 December, 2015
Up to 32 people were killed in two bomb attacks Monday in the Syrian city of Homs, near the border with Lebanon.
The second attack killed people who gathered to see the damage of an earlier car bomb. A suicide bomber entered the crowd and exploded a bomb hidden in clothing.
The attacks took place in the al-Zahraa district, in the central part of the city. State-controlled media say 19 people were killed in the two bombings. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 32 people were killed. Many others were hurt.
It was the second major attack in Homs since the government and rebel forces reached a cease-fire agreement this month. The government will take back areas of the city controlled by rebels.
On December 12, two bombings killed at least 16 people. Those attacks also took place in the al-Zahraa district. The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The Wall Street Journal newspaper reports that many people who live in the neighborhood are members of the Alawite sect. President Bashar al-Assad and top members of his government belong to the sect. The newspaper reports the area is often "attacked by anti-government rebels armed with rockets and vehicle bombs."
Separately, rebels and others began leaving three Syrian towns this week under a humanitarian agreement reached in September. The agreement between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels who oppose him is supported by the United Nations.
On Monday, more than 120 rebels, and others who are hurt, began leaving the town of Zabadani. It is the last area rebels control in Syria near the border with Lebanon. The Syrian Observatory said they were being moved to areas in Syria controlled by opponents of the government.
Also on Monday, a group of 335 people, including civilians, moved from two government-controlled villages in northwestern Syria to other government-held areas.
UN voted on Syrian peace plan
On December 18, all members of the U.N. Security Council voted to approve a plan for peace in Syria. It was a rare unanimous vote.
Staffan de Mistura is the U.N. peace negotiator for Syria. Saturday, he said he hoped to begin peace talks January 25. He said the talks would include members of the different Syrian opposition groups and others. He said the talks would require the "full cooperation" of all those involved in the conflict if they are to succeed.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and others have said ending the civil war in Syria is the most important step in defeating the Islamic State group and bringing stability to the area.
More than 250,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict since it began in 2011. More than 4 million people have fled the country.
I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.
VOANews.com reported this story. We also used reporting from The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera and Reuters. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
Words in This Story
sect – n. a religious group that is a smaller part of a larger group and whose members all share similar beliefs; also, a religious or political group that is connected to a larger group but that has beliefs that differ greatly from those of the main group
unanimous – adj. agreed to by everyone
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