Suicide bombers targeted two Syrian security-service buildings in Damascus, killing civilians and soldiers, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said, after an Arab League mission arrived to prepare for monitoring of an accord to end nine months of violence.
More than 40 people were killed and 100 wounded, Al Arabiya television reported, citing Syrian authorities. SANA said a preliminary investigation reveals the attack “carries the blueprints of al-Qaeda” and published photographs of the dead from the scene. President Bashar al-Assad’s government previously blamed “terrorists” and foreign provocateurs for fomenting the anti-government protests.
“Syria claims it is fighting foreign-backed armed groups, and these attacks would appear to lend credence to these allegations,” David Hartwell, Middle East political analyst for London-based IHS Jane’s, said in a note. “The fact that they occurred the day after the Arab League monitoring mission began arriving in Damascus to assess the human-rights situation in the country is certain to be viewed with suspicion by opposition and international observers.”
The U.S. condemns the bombings in the “strongest possible terms,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. “It is crucial that today’s attack not impede the critical work of the Arab League monitoring mission to document and deter human rights abuses with the goal of protecting civilians,” Toner said. “We hope that this mission will proceed unfettered in an atmosphere of non-violence.”
Arab League Role
Syria agreed to an Arab League protocol to allow about 500 observers into the country. The Dec. 19 signing came as Arab League prepared to ask the United Nations to address a crisis that the UN estimates has left more than 5,000 people dead. Three were killed in Homs today, following the deaths of 40 people in the city yesterday, Mahmoud Merei, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone from Syria. Al Arabiya television said 70 died the previous day.
The Arab League imposed sanctions on Syria on Nov. 27, increasing economic and political pressure on Assad. Efforts by the U.S. and the European Union, which also have imposed sanctions, to get a condemnation of his crackdown at the UN Security Council have been blocked by Russia and China.
The team that landed yesterday includes the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general, Samir Seif Al-Yazal, SANA said. The league has been given assurances that its observers will be able to travel freely, communicating with whomever they want without approval from Syrian authorities, Al Arabiya television said.
The Syrian National Council, an opposition alliance seeking to topple Assad’s government, has called for a Security Council meeting to address alleged “massacres” and “genocide.”
State forces have killed 250 people in the past 48 hours in the regions of Idlib, Homs and al-Zawiyah, the council said yesterday. The regions should be declared “safe zones,” it said. Reports of the latest killings couldn’t be verified because the Syrian government restricts foreign media access in the country and places curbs on local journalists.
In a statement yesterday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned “the Syrian regime’s policy of crackdown that targets its own people and turns the country into a lake of blood.”