Car bomb hits near major hotel in Syrian capital
A car bomb exploded near a major hotel in the Syrian capital of Damascus today, wounding several people.
The powerful blast shook the Dama Rose hotel and shattered much of its glass, according to an AP reporter at the scene. The hotel has been used in the past by UN observers visiting Syria, including the Damascus representative of the new UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.
The bomb, which the state news agency said weighbed around 50 kilograms, went off about 500 metres from the army chief-of-staff's building. It's not the first blast to rattle the Dama Rose on August 15, a bomb attached to a fuel truck exploded outside the hotel, wounding three people.
The pro-government Ikhbariyeh TV said the bomb today was planted under a car parked in an outdoor lot near the government Labor Union building.
The union chief, Mohammad Azouz, told The Associated Press that at least 12 people, all syndicate members, were wounded by shattered glass and two of them are in critical condition. Regional satellite stations broadcast brief clips from the capital showing a plume of white smoke rising from a building.
Azouz said firefighters were putting out a blaze caused by the blast, while ambulances were rushing the wounded to nearby hospitals. He said there were blood stains on the street.
In northeast Raqqa province, the state news agency reported that gunmen assassinated a leading member of the ruling Baath party. It said the gunmen broke into the home of Ismail al-Hamadeh at dawn and sprayed him with bullets as he slept.
Elsewhere in Syria, activists said the army clashed with rebels in the cities of Idlib and Aleppo in the north, in the capital, Damascus, as well as the southern border town of Daraa where the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.
In the Damascus suburbs of Harasta and al-Hajira, the army and opposition fighters exchanged heavy fire, killing a handful of rebels, SANA said. The army destroyed some rebel vehicles fitted with machine guns, according to the report.
SANA said that the fiercest fighting took place in Harem on the edge of Idlib, where 30 civilians were killed allegedly in clashes between rebels and the army. SANA said some activists were killed when the army destroyed their enclaves in the area and confiscated their weapons.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian army launched air strikes on rebel hideouts in Idlib's suburbs, mainly Maaret al-Numan, killing an unspecified number of activists.
In Cairo, the international envoy, Brahimi, met with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby to coordinate a common Arab position on the Syrian conflict ahead of a meeting later Sunday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a League official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.