x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Rebel car bomb blast kills 50 at Syria military post

The attack was one of the deadliest on pro-regime forces since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Al Assad's rule in March last year.

Syrians inspect the site of an explosion in the Mazzeh district of the capital Damascus yesterday.  At least 11 people were killed and dozens wounded in the attack, Syrian state television reported.
Syrians inspect the site of an explosion in the Mazzeh district of the capital Damascus yesterday. At least 11 people were killed and dozens wounded in the attack, Syrian state television reported.

DAMASCUS // Syrian rebels launched a devastating car bomb attack yesterday that killed 50 pro-regime fighters, a watchdog said, as air strikes pounded rebel positions and the opposition held talks on an overhaul.

The suicide car bomb attack on a military post in the central province of Hama struck early yesterday, killing at least 50 government troops and loyalist militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The attack was one of the deadliest on pro-regime forces since the start of the uprising against president Bashar Al Assad's rule in March last year.

State television and the Britain-based Observatory said a car-bomb attack had also killed 11 people and wounded dozens in the west Damascus district of Mazzeh, home to many embassies and state security offices.

Regime aircraft meanwhile continued to pound rebel-held positions around the country, with one air strike killing at least 20 rebel fighters in the town of Harem in the north-western province of Idlib, the Observatory said.

The rebels have scored significant gains in recent weeks and hold swathes of territory in the north, but have come under intense bombardment from the air as Mr Al Assad's regime seeks to reverse its losses.

An air strike in the Idlib province town of Kafr Nabal killed 14 civilians, the Observatory said, with a video posted on the internet by activists showing rescuers carrying blood-soaked bodies amid burning cars and uprooted trees.

"Bashar, even if you kill us all, we will stay determined to bring you down," one man shouts in the video.

Fighting also erupted in southern districts of the capital on the edge of the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, the Observatory said, with Palestinian sources saying 31 people had died from shelling at the camp on yesterday and on Sunday.

In the country's second city, Aleppo, fighting broke out at a roundabout at the north-western entrance to the city in Zahraa district and on the airport road to the south-east, the Observatory and residents said.

Nationwide, at least 122 people were killed in yesterday's violence, the Observatory said.

The bloodshed added urgency to a meeting of the Syrian National Council in Qatar, where the United States is reportedly pressing for a new umbrella organisation to unite the fractured opposition.

On the diplomatic front, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, accused countries that support the Syrian rebels of encouraging them to fight rather than pressuring them to negotiate.

Russia, one of the Syrian regime's most influential foreign allies, held no sway over the rebels, Mr Lavrov said in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart, Mohammed Kamel Amr.

Countries that do have influence over the rebels, among them some Gulf Arab states and western powers such as the United States, should encourage them to "sit at the negotiating table", Mr Lavrov said.

Some of those countries prefer to "unify the rebels not on the basis of negotiations but on the basis of continuing the fighting", he said.

Russia and China have stymied western- and Arab-backed efforts to put more pressure on Mr Al Assad's regime by blocking UN Security Council resolutions.

The British prime minister, David Cameron, yesterday lashed out at the United Nations for its failure to take a strong stance against the Syrian regime.

"I think in the case of Syria, the United Nations has let the world down," Mr Cameron said during a visit to the UAE. "You know that Bashar Al Assad cannot possibly stay running his country ... He has to go."

The Observatory says more than 36,000 people have died since the uprising against Mr Al Assad's rule broke out, first as a protest movement inspired by the Arab Spring and then as an armed rebellion.