Two suicide bombers hit a central Damascus square yesterday, killing at least 14 people, activists and the state media reported. Activists said one of the explosions took place inside the police station there and that many among the dead were policemen.
Syrian state TV quoted a security official as saying 14 people died in explosions caused by two “terrorist” suicide bombers near a police station in the bustling Marjeh Square in the heart of the capital. The official said another 31 were wounded.
The state-TV Ikhbariya TV station showed footage of broken shop facades and mangled cars in the central square as ambulance workers were seen carrying the wounded on stretchers.
Marjeh Square was scene to previous attacks earlier this year.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said 15 were killed in the explosions, one of which caused by a man who blew himself up inside the police station in Marjeh square. The Observatory said the other explosion occurred outside the police station.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the two accounts.
Both the media and activists had originally reported two dead.
Yesterday’s twin explosions in the capital were the first since government troops, backed by fighters from Lebanon’s Shiite group Hezbollah, captured al-Qusayr, a strategic town in the central province of Homs.
Syrian state-run media and the Hezbollah-owned al-Manar TV have said the regime is preparing an offensive, reportedly named Operation Northern Storm, to recapture Aleppo. The regime was also believed to be advancing on the central city of Homs.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but car bombs and suicide attacks targeting Damascus and other cities under government control have been claimed in the past by the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra — one of scores of rebel factions fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is talking to Germany about resettling up to 10,000 Syrian refugees, agency spokesman Adrian Edwards said yesterday.
UNHCR was also working with other European governments to find ways to resettle some of the 1.6 million Syrians who have fled the country, a number the UN expects to reach 3.45 million by the end of this year, Edwards said.
The agency plans to hold a meeting on the subject with governments around the end of this month in Geneva, but details and the participants were not yet known, he said. Specific numbers had not yet been discussed.
However, resettlement is only an option for the most vulnerable cases and the bulk of the refugee burden will still fall on four of Syria’s neighbors: Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
“The priority right now is to maintain asylum in that region,” he said. “But yes we do think it’s important that the countries outside the immediate region show solidarity with the countries most affected by this crisis.”
Additional reporting by Reuters