On Sunday, the day after envoys arrived in Geneva to attempt to resolve the Syrian war, a triple bombing by the Islamic State near Damascus killed more than 70 people and wounded more than 100. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack targeted a bus full of Shiite militiamen — 42 of those killed were fighters with ties to the Syrian government, the New York Times reports. (The Islamic State’s fighters are Sunni Muslims who consider Shiites to be heretical.) Attackers first detonated a car bomb near a bus stop, and as people rushed in to help, two suicide bombers set off more explosives. The attack occurred in the Sayeda Zeinab district, which is home to one of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims. The shrine was undamaged.
The attack comes as envoys arrive in Geneva for the first Syrian peace talks in two years. On Saturday, the leader of a group of envoys that opposes Syria’s Bashar al-Assad told Reuters they were “keen to make this negotiation a success,” but Bashar Ja’afari, the head of the Syrian delegation, said Sunday’s attack “confirm[s] what the Syrian government has stated before: that there is a link between terrorism and the sponsors of terrorism from one side.” Assad’s government refers to all those fighting to overthrow it as terrorists, but in this case Ja’afari seems to suggest a link between ISIS, a Sunni group, and the anti-Assad Syrian rebels, who are also mostly Sunni.
On Friday a U.N. mediator met only with the Syrian government delegation; the rebels — the Saudi-backed Higher Negotiations Committee — refused to participate in the conversation until detainees were released, government blockades were lifted on rebel-held areas, and Russian and Syrian forces stopped bombing civilian areas. But on Sunday the HNC relaxed its stance, and the U.N. mediator said he’s still “optimistic and determined” that the talks will proceed.
The U.N.’s goal for these meetings is to impose a cease-fire and find a political solution to the Syrian war, which has killed at least 250,000 people, among them yesterday’s victims.