– ISIS bombings kill nearly 130 people in Syria
– Kerry and Lavrov reach provisional deal on ceasefire
– Extremists cut government supply route to Syria’s Aleppo
– Kurdish militant group TAK claims responsibility for Ankara car bomb

ISIS bombings kill nearly 130 people in Syria

Bombings claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs killed nearly 130 people on Sunday. A series of blasts ripped through the Sayyida Zeinab suburb of Damascus, killing at least 83 people and wounding more than 170, the official SANA news agency said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the blasts killed 62. SANA said the bombs went off near schools during the afternoon rush hour. The neighborhood is home to one of Shia Islam’s holiest shrines, which his heavily guarded by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and other Shia militiamen from Iraq and elsewhere. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said the blasts were caused by a car bomb and two suicide bombers. The bombings in the central city of Homs killed at least 46 people and wounded dozens, according to Syria’s Foreign Ministry. SOHR said 57 people, including 11 women, were killed by two car bombs set off in a mostly Alawite neighborhood. The Russian foreign ministry said Monday that ISIS’s attacks were aimed at undermining the peace process. [AP, WSJ, AFP, 2/22/2016]

Kerry and Lavrov reach provisional deal on ceasefire
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, had reached a provisional agreement on terms of a cessation of hostilities in Syria and the sides were closer to a ceasefire than ever before. “We have reached a provisional agreement in principle on the terms of a cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days,” Kerry told a news conference in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. “The modalities for a cessation of hostilities are now being completed. In fact, we are closer to a ceasefire today than we have been,” said Kerry, who was also to meet King Abdullah. The Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said in a statement it would agree to a temporary truce that we reached “with international mediation and with guarantees obliging Russia, Iran and sectarian militias and mercenaries to stop fighting.” The HNC gathered in Riyadh on Monday for further discussions. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Saturday he was ready for a ceasefire, on condition “terrorists” did not use a lull in fighting to their advantage and that countries backing insurgents halted support for them. [Reuters, AFP, 2/22/2016]

Extremists cut government supply route to Syria’s Aleppo
ISIS and other extremists Monday cut a vital supply route linking the west of Syria’s second city Aleppo with other government-held territory, according to SOHR. The road between Aleppo and the town of Khanasser to the southeast was the only way government forces and civilians living in government-controlled neighborhoods of the city could travel to surrounding provinces. If government forces are unable to recapture the road, it could slow an offensive they launched in the countryside around Aleppo earlier this year and could worsen severe shortages of food and water for civilians. “Jihadists from the Caucasus and from [China’s mainly Muslim region of] Xinjiang, as well as the jihadist group Jund al-Aqsa, cut the route from the south after a surprise attack,” said SOHR Head Rami Abdel-Rahman. “And fighters from [ISIS] cut off a different part of the route from the northern side at the same time.” [AFP, 2/22/2016]

Kurdish militant group TAK claims responsibility for Ankara car bomb
A breakaway faction of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has claimed responsibility for the bombing in the Turkish capital Ankara that killed 28 people last week, according to a statement on its website. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) says Wednesday’s bombing was in response to the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the military operations going on in the country’s southeast. “On February 17 in the evening a suicide attack was carried out by a sacrifice warrior on a military convoy of the fascist Turkish Republic in Ankara. …The attack was realized by the Immortal Battalion of the TAK,” the statement said. TAK also said in its statement on Friday that it would continue its attacks. While the government identified the bomber as a Syrian Kurd named Salih Necar shortly after the attack, Van resident Musa Sonmez has identified the perpetrator in the photograph as his son and has been summoned to Ankara to give a DNA sample. [AP, Today’s Zaman, Al Jazeera, 2/22/2016]