BEIRUT — In the latest strike in a rapid-fire series of bloody attacks on children and other civilians in Syria in recent days, two car bombs exploded in the central province of Hama today, killing at least 19 people, including at least eight children, Syrian state news media and anti-government activists reported.
The bombings came even as a cease-fire deal was reported in the battered city of Homs. Insurgents, security officials and pro-government media said a budding agreement would allow the last remaining insurgents in the Old City of Homs to flee. The deal was brokered in Turkey by Iranian officials and the insurgent Islamic Front and included meetings in Homs between government officials and rebel representatives, anti-government fighters and activists said.
If it holds, the agreement would hand a victory for President Bashar Assad ahead of presidential elections next month, giving the government control of a bastion of rebellion in central Syria, where a dwindling group of fighters and civilians have held out through two years of blockade and bombardment.
But any hopes that a cease-fire could build new common ground were undermined by painful images of dead and injured children, who appeared to bear more of the brunt than usual this week in escalating attacks by both sides. Bombings of schools and marketplaces drew fierce condemnation from rights groups and left Syrians of all political stripes reeling, deepening political and sectarian divides and making the prospect of repairing the country’s rifts seem ever more remote.
Human Rights Watch warned insurgents, as it has warned the government before, that targeting civilians is a war crime that, if widespread or systematic, “amounts to crimes against humanity.” It urged the U.N. Security Council today to impose an arms embargo against all parties targeting civilians.
But the outside world seems increasingly powerless to help Syrians. Peace talks are stalled, and on Wednesday the Security Council discussed the lack of compliance with its February resolution demanding unimpeded access to humanitarian aid. The polarized body is unlikely to agree on who should be subject to an arms embargoes: the Russian-backed government or an array of insurgents backed by the United States, its Arab allies or shadowy private donors.