Bombing is first in heart of Damascus since July
- Displaced Syrians Confirm ISIS Recapture of Qaryatayn from Regime
- HRW: Jordan Deporting 100s of Refugees Back to Syria
UPDATE 1630 GMT: The Islamic State has now claimed responsibility for the attack on the Midan police station.
Two suicide bombers attacked a police station in southern Damascus on Monday, killing at least 10 people.
Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar told reporters that two attackers struck guards with bombs at the station in the Midan area of Syria’s capital. One then blew himself up with an explosive belt in front of the main gate of the station. The second reached the first floor of the building where he was killed by police, detonating his belt.
Al-Shaar said “a number of policeman and civilians” were killed. Initial reports put out a figure of 12 fatalities. Later the pro-Assad Lebanese channel al-Mayadeen said at least 10 people were slain and 20 wounded. Russian news agency RIA said 15 died.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the station, which was also bombed in late 2016.
The bombing was the first in Damascus since July, when 20 people were killed in a car bombing. However, fighting is ongoing in the northeast of the capital, with pro-Assad forces still trying after years to retake the Jobar district, and in nearby suburbs.
Shaar said, “It’s natural to expect that the terrorists will resort to acts like this … but they are all desperate acts. Such operations are thwarted on a daily basis.”
Information Minister Mohammad Ramez Tourjman insisted that the bombing was a “desperate attempt to raise collapsed morale” of enemy forces. He called on the international community to take “deterrent and punitive measures against the regimes that back terrorism”.
Displaced Syrians Confirm ISIS Recapture of Qaryatayn from Regime
Displaced Syrians have confirmed the capture of Qaryatayn in eastern Homs Province by an ISIS counter-attack, even as regime media refuses to acknowledge the setback.
Residents from Qaryatayn, now in the barren Rukban camp in southeastern Syria near the Jordanian border, have spoken of conversations with relatives as the Islamic State re-entered the town.
“Nobody was expecting IS to return,” said Abu Ward, who fled Qaryatayn with his family in 2015, “To be honest, it was a shock — I didn’t believe the news at first.”
ISIS initially took Qaryatyan in 2015, prompting thousands of about 14,000 residents to flee south through the desert to Rukban.
Regime forces moved back into the town in the spring, on the way to their entry into Deir ez-Zor Province, but the sudden ISIS counter-attack last week quickly reoccupied the area.
Abu Saleem, a father of four, sent his wife and children home to Qaryatayn last month, believing life had returned to a semblance of normality. He stayed in Rukban because he feared arrest and conscription by regime forces.
He said of voice messages with his wife:
She told me she was doing fine, that the city was safe. She had just registered the kids in school.”
“But on Friday evening, she sent me a voice message. There was gunfire, and she said she couldn’t go outside the house, that IS had returned to the city. My children were crying nearby.
Abu Saleem has heard nothing from his wife and children since Friday after communication was cut.
Abu Ward said his last sustained conversation with family was Friday evening: “At 11:30pm, the landline cut off. At the time, they seemed to be doing well — there were no signs of IS. Everything seemed normal.”
He was able to reach family members briefly on Monday, but the line was cut again: “I couldn’t figure out how they were doing — just that there is great panic among residents of the town.”
Claimed image of Assad regime reinforcements heading to Qaryatayn:
ISIS Releases Claimed Video of 2 Captured Russian Troops
The Islamic State has released video purporting to be of two Russian soldiers captured in the village of al-Shula in Deir ez-Zor Province last weekend.
Islamic State released a video of the 2 captured Russian soldiers who were captured inside Shoula village: pic.twitter.com/tV5vflaT23
— أبو همامSafawiHunter (@safawihunter) October 3, 2017
The Assad regime military later asserted that it had retaken the village, south of Deir ez-Zor city.
HRW: Jordan Deporting 100s of Refugees Back to Syria
Human Rights Watch says the Jordanian government is summarily deporting hundreds of registered Syrian refugees, despite the risks they face returning to the country.
The 27-page report documents the deportation of about 400 refugees, including the “collective expulsions” of large families, between January and May 2017.
HRW carried out interviews with 35 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and 13 others who have recently been deported. They said the Jordanian authorities provided little evidence of misconduct before forceful removals, with no opportunity to appeal or seek legal assistance.
According to the report, some 300 registered refugees returned to Syria voluntarily during the five months, and another 500 returned under “unclear” circumstances.
Jordan has hosted more than 650,000 registered Syrian refugees — with Jordanian officials saying the total is more than one million — but it closed its border from June 2016, trapping about 75,000 displaced Syrians in the Rukban area with scarce supplies of food and water.
Amman has also worked with the US in recent months to limit and even cut off supplies to Syrian rebels if they carry operations against the Assad regime, rather than the Islamic State.
HRW accused Jordan of violating its obligations under the Arab Charter of Human Rights, to which it is a party.
Mohammad Momani, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs, rejected the findings: “The return of refugees is voluntary and not to any dangerous areas.”
He asserted that international organisations should do more to pressure other countries to host more refugees.