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Terror Strikes Again: Several injured in car bombing in Damascus, Syria

The explosion took place Monday in the Kafr Sousa neighborhood of Damascus, which houses many security installations.

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Car bombing in Damascus, several injured. Image Source: aljazeera
  • The explosion took place Monday in the Kafr Sousa neighborhood of Damascus, which houses many security installations
  • In another development Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government helicopter gunships dropped barrel bombs on residential neighborhoods in Aleppo, killing at least 12 people
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed trying to establish closer military cooperation and intelligence-sharing with Russia to fight extremist groups in Syria

A car bomb exploded in a heavily policed area of Syria’s capital, causing several injuries as well as damage to government buildings, according to Syria’s state media.

Car bombing in Damascus. Image Source: aljazeera
Car bombing in Damascus. Image Source: aljazeera

The explosion took place Monday in the Kafr Sousa neighborhood of Damascus, which houses many security installations.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the violence in Syria, said the blast was near an Iranian school and caused causalities, but did not give further details.

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Car bombings in the central part of Damascus are relatively rare.

In another development Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government helicopter gunships dropped barrel bombs on residential neighborhoods in Aleppo, killing at least 12 people.

Israeli missiles caused material damage. Image Source: VoaNews
Israeli missiles caused material damage. Image Source: VoaNews

Also Monday, the Israeli military said it struck a target in Syria in response to mortar fire that hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Syria’s military said the Israeli missiles caused only material damage.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said any military cooperation between the Untied States and Russia to strike targets in Syria would be transactional and not based on trust. At a news conference at the Pentagon, Carter and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said any cooperation with Russia would include measures to ensure U.S. operation security.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed trying to establish closer military cooperation and intelligence-sharing with Russia to fight extremist groups in Syria.

State Secretary John Kerry. Image Source: VoaNews
State Secretary John Kerry. Image Source: VoaNews

Following a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Kerry responded to comments made by Carter and Dunford by saying that he still has some concerns about whether Russia is really prepared to step up and work with U.S. forces in Syria. That’s why, Kerry said, he didn’t publicly announce any kind of cooperation with Russia.

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“Because we’ve been disappointed in the past,” he said.

Kerry said “a lot of homework” still needs to be completed before either Russia or the U.S. makes any public announcements, but discussions will continue to be held “quietly.” He said he hopes to make a public announcement about a plan by the first week in August.

Source: VoaNews

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Syria: Small Group of Young Students Create Secret Library Deep Underneath Bullet-Ridden Building

Amid the bombing campaign between the Syrian regime and rebel forces in the Damascus suburb of Daraya

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Syria, Students, Library
Some members of the secret library team gather in their underrground sanctuary in Daraya, Syria. (Photo courtesy of Ahmad Ma'dmani). VOA

Amid the bombing campaign between the Syrian regime and rebel forces in the Damascus suburb of Daraya, a small group of young students tried to bring normalcy to the chaos by creating a secret library deep underneath a bullet-ridden building.

The library was built to create a safe shelter for residents to gather and read.

For months, Mike Thomson, a British-based journalist, documented the students’ efforts in his book “Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Town Under Siege.”

“Most of the town was under sniper fire from the government soldiers who were based in high-rise buildings near the front lines,” Thomson told VOA about the operation.

Syria, Students, Library
Damaged buildings line the street in Daraya after bombardment by the Syrian regime. VOA

“They gathered these books under sniper fire and sometimes under shell fire. They brought ladders with them to climb from windows. It was a dangerous exercise they often did during the night,” Thomson said.

Daraya, a suburb located 8 kilometers to the southwest of the Syrian capital, was one of the first areas to witness protests against the Syrian regime in 2011. It soon became a rebel stronghold and a major center of battle. The town suffered a brutal siege and ongoing bombardment by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and allied militias from 2012 to 2016.

Collecting books

During the middle of the siege, basic needs such as food, water and medical supplies were banned from entering the town. It was then that a group of volunteer students teamed up to stock the underground library.

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For months, they stowed over 1,400 books for public access, with volumes rescued from Daraya’s public library that was destroyed in a fire caused by a shelling in 2013.

“The library had become everything from a meeting place, tea room, education center, community center and a book club, where everyone discussed a book they read. Because of the lack of books, not everyone could read the same book,” Thomson said.

The library contained a wide collection of local and world literature, covering areas of history, science, religion and culture, and complete sets of encyclopedias. It included popular plays of Shakespeare, books by Syrian poets like Adonis and Maram al-Masri, Agatha Christie’s translated works, and a Marxist interpretation of Islam by author Muhammad Imara.

‘The soul needs food’

Syria, Students, Library
Books are rescued from a bombed and abandoned building to be taken to a secret library in the town of Daraya, Syria. (Photo courtesy of Daraya Council Media Team). VOA

When asked by Thomson why a group of young Syrians living under daily bombardment decided to risk their lives searching for books, Abdul Basit, a lead volunteer, said reading served as a spiritual salvation for many.

“I asked Abdul Basit, ‘You are living on a cup of watery soup every day. Why aren’t you out looking for food instead of books?’ Abdul Basit answered, ‘Like the body, the soul also needs food,'” Thomson said.

“They had hope all through this, and they still have hope, because at the end, rebel forces in Daraya had to surrender, and most of these people had to go to Idlib,” he added.

The siege on Daraya ended in August 2016 after the rebels made a deal with Syria that allowed them to evacuate with their families. The agreement reportedly allowed about 700 fighters and 4,000 civilians to leave the suburb before regime forces entered.

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Left behind

Basit and his team of volunteers were among those who had to flee Daraya to northern Syria, leaving the library behind. Unable to take the books, the members tried to conceal the library by blocking its entrance with pieces of shattered concrete.

Despite their efforts, Syrian government forces were able to find the makeshift library. The fate of thousands of books remains unclear, according to Basit, who has been unable to return home due to the regime’s fierce control.

“I miss everything about that special place,” Thomson said in his book. “It wasn’t just a repository of books. It was another world, a world we shared together. And while outside was destruction and pain, inside was creation and hope. …  I felt inspired inside these walls.”

With Syria going into its ninth year of conflict, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and injured, and millions have been displaced.

Over half of all Syrians have been displaced from their homes. Forty percent of them are living in northwest Syria and over 3.6 million are refugees in Turkey, according to a report published last April by the World Health Organization. (VOA)