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Dozens killed in double car bombing in Syria's Homs: Monitor

Hours after the blast, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that he had reached a provisional agreement about a ceasefire with Russia
Syrians gather at the site of a double car bomb blast in Homs on 21 February 2016 (AFP)

At least 57 people were killed and dozens injured on Sunday in a double car bomb which rocked the central Syrian city of Homs, a monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of those killed appeared to be civilians, adding that the toll could still rise further because of the number of seriously wounded.

Syrian state television originally gave a toll of at least 25 dead, but later uped the figure to 34, citing Homs provincial governor Talal Barazi.

It broadcast footage from the scene of the attack in the al-Zahraa neighbourhood, showing the air thick with dust and smoke rising from blazes started by the blasts.

Witnesses told Russian media that the bombs went off just minutes apart and that at least one was detonated by a suicide bomber. 

A firefighter douses the flames in Homs after two large car bomb blasts (AFP)

Firefighters ran through debris strewn by the explosions as security forces and civilians tried to pry open the wreckage of one vehicle to retrieve a person inside.

Nearby, a charred body was carried away on a stretcher by emergency services workers.

The bombings appeared to have caused extensive damage, ripping the fronts off shops surrounding the site and mangling cars and minibuses.

Syrians gather at the site of a double car bomb attack in the Al-Zahraa neighbourhood of the central Syrian city of Homs on 21 February, 2016 (AFP)

The attacks were some of the deadliest to hit the city, which has been regularly targeted in blasts, including a devastating attack at a school in October 2014 that killed 48 children and four adults.

Al-Zahraa neighbourhood in particular has been the target of multiple attacks, including last month, when at least 22 people were killed in a double suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Once dubbed the "capital of the revolution," Homs city is now largely controlled by the government, with the exception of the Waer district, which is being gradually turned over to the government under a deal with opposition fighters. 

A picture taken on February 21, 2016 shows damaged cars at the site of a double car bomb attack in the al-Zahraa neighborhood of the central Syrian city of Homs (AFP)

Fresh ceasefire hopes 

Hours after the blast, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that he had reached a provisional agreement about a ceasefire with Russia.

Kerry told reporters in the Jordanian capital Amman, where he is meeting with King Abdullah, that after fresh talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, a ceasefire could come into force within the next few days. 

"We have reached a provisional agreement, in principle, on the terms of the cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days," Kerry said.

"It is not yet done and I anticipate that our presidents, President [Barack] Obama and President [Vladimir] Putin, may well speak somewhere in the next days or so in order to try to complete this task," Kerry told a press conference with Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh.

Hopes for a ceasefire, which had been due to take hold late on Friday, had floundered as fresh violence shook Syria last week. On Saturday, the Russians - who began a bombing campiagn at the behest of the government last September - said that they would keep assisting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against "terrorism". 

Peace talks, which collapsed earlier this month in Geneva and were scheduled to resume on 25 February, have also stalled due to the fighting, and the UN's envoy on Syria has already acknowledged that the February date is no longer "realistically" possible.

However, Kerry said he was optimistic that a ceasefire, agreed at a meeting in Munich earlier this month, could still be implemented, noting that UN-backed aid deliveries had reached some besieged Syrians last week. 

"We are in fact making progress even as a I stand here today. There is aid now getting through, the modalities for a cessation of hostilities are now being completed," he said. "We are closer to a ceasefire today than we have been."