Car bomb rocks Damascus suburb, hits peace deal
As the UN prepares to deploy 300 monitors and the US unveiled new sanctions, a car bomb Tuesday hit a suburb of Damascus, dealing a blow to the 12-day old UN-mandated ceasefire in the Middle East country.
Three people were injured when the blast went off in the Marjeh district of the capital, with the government blaming "terrorists" for the attack. The blast took place in Marjah Square near the Iranian Cultural Center. Iran is a close ally of the beleaguered Assad regime in Syria. The bomb was placed under the car of an unsuspecting man, who was among those wounded, said state news agency SANA. In another incident, an army truck was targeted while it was passing through downtown Damascus. Two officers were killed.
No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Syria's pro-government Ikhbaria television blamed armed terrorists - a term used to describe rebels - for the car bomb.The blast rattled the residents of Damascus, the Syrian capital that has remained relatively peaceful since the protests against the Bashar al-Assad regime began 13 months ago. Amid escalating violence in rebel areas like Homs and Hama, Damascus has remained a government stronghold.
The explosion occurred even as UN observers were touring the restive suburb of Douma in Syria to monitor what is widely seen as a precarious ceasefire between government forces and rebels that came into effect April 12. "We are observing the situation closely," said Neeraj Singh, spokesperson of the UN observers in Syria.
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is expected to brief the Security Council on the evolving situation in Syria. The Syrian government has repeatedly underlined its commitment to Annan's six-point peace plan and has blamed rebels for trying to wreck the ceasefire. On Monday, US President Barack Obama ordered new sanctions on entities and individuals in Syria and Iran that use technology to target their citizens and inflict abuses.