September 26, 2012
September 26, 2012
Two loud explosions targeted one of Syria’s top military command buildings in the capital Damascus on Wednesday, engulfing the building in flames, residents and state-television said, as Western and Arab leaders ramped up the pressure on Syria at the United Nations.
The rebel Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the attack that targeted one of the Syrian top military command buildings in the capital Damascus.
“The Free Army hit the General Staff building in Damascus’ Umayyad Square and dozens were killed in the two powerful blasts,” the information office for the FSA military council said in a statement.
Syria’s Information Minister Omran Zoabi had earlier said that the blasts caused only material damage and that security forces were chasing “armed terrorists” — a term the authorities use to refer to insurgents waging a violent uprising to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
One of the bombs may have been planted inside the military complex, Zoabi told state television.
Video footage and pictures downloaded by activists showed flames engulfing the upper floors a Defense Ministry building by the Umayyad Square in central Damascus.
Menahwile, as many as 80 people have been killed by the Syrian forces across the country, activists said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier said that one of the blasts hit right in the heart of the district and the second in Kfar Susa neighborhood slightly to the west, according to AFP.
Gunfire and other smaller blasts could be heard after the explosions, as well as the sound of ambulance sirens. Many roads in the center of the capital were blocked, residents said, according to Reuters.
“The explosions were very loud. They shook the whole city and the windows of our house were shuddering,” one resident reached by telephone told Reuters.
“Black smoke was seen rising from the area near the army staff building,” the resident, who declined to be named, said.
A Damascus bomb attack on July 18 killed several top security officials, including Assad’s brother-in-law, the defense and interior ministers. That attack paved the way for a rebel advance into the center of the capital, although they have since been pushed back to the outskirts.
Syria’s conflict, once a peaceful protest movement, has evolved into a civil war that the U.N. special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said was “extremely bad and getting worse.” He said the stalemate in the country could soon “find an opening,” without elaborating.
Even Damascus has become a battleground between Assad’s forces and opposition fighters.
With no foreseeable prospect of foreign intervention and diplomacy stuck, outgunned rebels have relied increasingly on attacks with homemade bombs, striving to level the playing field against a state using fighter jets, artillery and tanks.
On Tuesday, Syrian rebels detonated bombs at a building occupied by pro-government militias in Damascus.
Activists say that more than 27,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad but jostling for regional advantage by world powers has thwarted effective U.N. Security Council action to defuse the conflict.
The United States, European allies, Turkey and Gulf Arab states have sided with the Syrian opposition while Iran, Russia and China have backed Assad, whose family and minority Alawite sect have dominated the major Arab state for 42 years.
With no foreseeable prospect of foreign intervention and peace diplomacy stuck, outgunned rebels have relied increasingly on attacks with home-made bombs, striving to level the playing field against a state using fighter jets, artillery and tanks.
Rebels said they hoped their attack would kill top-level security officials — as they did with a major Damascus bombing in July — but gave no casualty figure. State media said at least seven people were wounded, with minor damage to buildings, according to Reuters.
Western and Arab leaders, meanwhile, ramped up the pressure on Syria at the United Nations on Tuesday.
The United States, France and Qatar led the charge as the West and its allies attempted to use the U.N. General Assembly to win support for tougher international action against the Syrian regime.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon set the tone, condemning the bloodshed in Syria, where the beleaguered regime is battling an armed revolt and subjecting its citizens to what the U.N. peace envoy dubbed “medieval forms of torture.”
Under pressure from his domestic rivals to take a tough stance, Obama went further, declaring: “The regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.”
The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a key supporter of the Syrian opposition, called for an Arab military intervention.
“It is better for Arab countries themselves to intervene out of their humanitarian, political and military duties and do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed,” he told the General Assembly.
A U.S. State Department official told AFP that the United States will soon announce an increase in its aid to the Syrian rebels, but would still stop short of sending weapons and ammunition.
And French President Francois Hollande urged the United Nations to declare protected areas in “liberated zones” under opposition control in Syria so that humanitarian aid could reach refugees.
The U.N. chief dubbed the Syria conflict “a regional calamity with global ramifications” and said: “The international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control.”
“We must stop the violence and flow of arms to both sides and set in motion a Syrian-led transition as soon as possible,” Ban added.
The 15-nation Security Council has become paralyzed by deadlock over the 18-month-old war.
Source: Al Arabiya