More than 20 people were killed yesterday in blasts targeting security buildings in the city of Idlib in northwest Syria, as an explosion was also reported in the capital, a monitoring group said.
The violence a day after the arrival of the chief of a UN monitoring mission was sure to put further strain on a UN-backed ceasefire that went into effect on April 12, but has failed to take hold fully.
Most of those killed in Idlib were members of the security forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
State television put the death toll at eight, among them civilians, and said scores of people were also wounded in the two blasts in Idlib’s Hananu Square, on Carlton Street.
The channel said “terrorists” were behind the attacks, a term it uses to refer to rebels seeking to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
It showed footage of bloodstains on the ground, and groups of angry people denouncing the violence and expressing support for al-Assad.
“Is this the freedom they want?” one man shouted, standing near a woman who was carrying a child with blood running down his forehead.
An apartment block appeared to be in ruins and cars nearby were flattened by the force of the explosion.
A powerful blast, probably a car bomb, was also reported near Damascus, the UK-based Observatory added.
“A strong explosion shook the suburbs of Qudsiya and it appears it was a car bomb,” it said. “Initial reports indicate there are casualties.”
Overnight, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Central Bank of Syria in the capital, state media reported, after a suicide car bombing in the heart of the city on Friday killed 11 people.
Anti-regime activists have accused the government of being behind the series of explosions, while the authorities say “terrorists” are responsible.
“We confirm that these tricks no longer fool anyone, especially given the fact that the regime has resorted to these escalations every time there is political movement at the Arab, regional, or international level to find a political solution to the crisis in which the regime kills its people who are demanding freedom,” said a statement by the Local Coordination Committees, a local network of activists.
Veteran peacekeeper Major General Robert Mood urged all sides to abide by the ceasefire as he arrived in Damascus on Sunday to take command of the UN military observer mission overseeing the truce.
The peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, media access to all areas affected by the fighting, an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a right to demonstrate and the release of detainees.
“To achieve the success of the Kofi Annan plan, I call on all sides to stop violence and help us continue the cessation of armed violence,” Mood told reporters.
“To achieve this, we now have 30 monitors on the ground and in the coming days we will double this figure,” he said, adding that the number would “rapidly” increase to 300.
Mood, a 54-year-old Norwegian who negotiated the conditions for the deployment of the advance team, was head of the UN Truce Supervision Organization, which monitors Middle East truces, from 2009 until last year.
He stressed the monitors need the cooperation of all parties to achieve their mission.