A series of bomb blasts killed more than 100 people in two normally quiet Syrian coastal cities Monday, according to Syrian state television and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The blasts took place in the government strongholds of Jableh and Tartus, which have up to now escaped the worst of the violence in Syria's five-year civil war.
Four bombs, including at least one suicide attack, exploded in Jableh, including at the emergency entrance to the city's hospital. A rocket attack on a bus station killed at least 53 people, according to the Syrian Observatory.
Another three bombs, at least one of which was a suicide attack, hit the city of Tartus, about 60 kilometers south of Jableh, in what observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman called an "unprecedented" attack.
Again, the terrorists targeted a crowded bus station, Syria's SANA news agency reported. The TV report said at least one suicide bomber blew himself up near the station, and was followed minutes later by a car bomber. Another 48 people died in that attack, according to Rahman.
A news agency linked to the Islamic State group credited the extremists with the attack.
"Attacks by IS fighters hit Alawite gatherings in Tartus and Jableh on the Syria coast," the Amaq news agency said on Twitter, referring to the minority from which President Bashar al-Assad hails.
Russia, which backs Assad, has a naval base in Tartus and an air base north of Jableh. A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the series of attacks “demonstrate how fragile the situation in Syria is" and "demonstrates the need to continue vigorous steps to continue the negotiation process."
The United States condemned the attacks, calling them "horrific."
A State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said the United States will continue to "lead the global coalition to degrade and defeat Daesh [Islamic State] so that it can no longer brutalize those who reject its tormented world view."
He also called on Russia to press the Assad government to end attacks that kill civilians so that political talks aimed at ending the crisis can succeed and all parties can focus on defeating Islamic State.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned Monday's attacks and noted "with great concern of the escalating military activity in many areas in and around Damascus," according to a spokesman.