A crowd gathers in front of a building and car damaged
after a bomb explosion in the Mezzeh 86 area in Damascus.
Eleven people died and dozens more were injured by the
An Islamist suicide car bomber has killed at least 50
Syrian security men in Hama province, an opposition group said,
in what would be one of the bloodiest single attacks on
President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the 20-month-old
Another day of relentless violence in Syria coincided with
more unity talks in Qatar among opposition factions.
Syrian state media reported that a "terrorist" suicide bomber
had targeted a rural development centre in Sahl al-Ghab in
Hama province, putting the death toll at two.
Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights, said the centre was used by security forces and
pro-Assad militia as one of their biggest bases in the area.
"A fighter from the Nusra Front drove his car to the centre
and then blew himself up," he said. "A series of explosions
followed. At least 50 were killed."
The Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-inspired group of ultra-orthodox
Salafi Muslims, has claimed responsibility for several
suicide bombings in Damascus and elsewhere in the past. It
operates mostly independently of other rebel factions, some
of which have criticised it for indiscriminate tactics.
Syrian officials often blame foreign-backed Islamist
militants for the anti-Assad revolt, in which about 32,000
people have been killed since it began in March 2011.
In Damascus, a car bomb exploded in the mostly Alawite
western district of Mezzeh 86, killing 11 people and wounding
dozens more, including children, state media and the Syrian
An Islamist group calling itself Seif al-Sham claimed
responsibility for the attack, which it said targeted a
meeting point for the army, police and pro-Assad militia.
Warplanes, tanks and artillery battered rebel-held parts of
southern Damascus in what one Western diplomat said was an
escalation in the government campaign to crush the
insurgency. Opposition activists said at least 10 people were
An air strike on Haram, a town in the northwestern province
of Idlib near the Turkish border, killed at least 20 rebels
of the Idlib Martyrs' Brigade, probably including their
commander, Basil Eissa, the Syrian Observatory said.
Much of Idlib province is in the hands of insurgents, but
remains vulnerable to air power, used increasingly by Assad's
forces to contain his mostly Sunni Muslim opponents.
In Qatar, divided Syrian opposition groups were meeting to
try to forge a cohesive leadership that would then make
common cause with rebel factions fighting on the ground, in
an effort to gain wider international recognition and arms
The Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest overseas-based
opposition group, was expected to expand its membership to
400 from 300 and to elect a new leader and executive
committee before talks with other anti-Assad factions in Doha
Discussions focused on a proposal by influential opposition
figure Riad Seif for a new structure combining the rebel Free
Syrian Army, regional military councils and other insurgent
units with local civilian bodies and prominent individuals.
The Syria conflict has also divided big powers, with Russia
and China opposing Western calls for Assad's removal and
critical of patchy outside efforts to arm his opponents.
Rebels have few weapons to counter warplanes and artillery,
but Western nations have been wary of supplying anti-tank or
anti-aircraft missiles without a credible opposition
That has given the Syrian military a free hand, with densely
populated Damascus suburbs hit by air and ground bombardments
that have killed hundreds of people in the last three weeks.
Witnesses said artillery deployed on Qasioun, a mountain that
overlooks Damascus, was pounding southern neighbourhoods and
warplanes were firing rockets. Tanks were also in action.
"WAR OF ATTRITION"
Activist Rami al-Sayyed, speaking from southern Damascus,
said rebels had made hit-and-run attacks on pro-Assad
militiamen in the city overnight before retreating to nearby
In one attack, rebels fought pro-Assad militiamen in Nisreen,
a southern district mainly populated by members of Assad's
minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
They also hit positions of the Popular Front For the
Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), a
Syrian-sponsored faction, in the nearby Yarmouk refugee camp,
where 20 people were reported killed by army shelling on
Sunday. At least seven PFLP-GC members were killed in the
The Syrian conflict has aggravated divisions in the Islamic
world, with Shi'ite Iran supporting Assad and U.S.-allied
Sunni nations such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar backing
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Egypt's al-Ahram
daily that Moscow, Syria's main arms supplier, was sending
weapons under Soviet-era commitments for defence against
external threats, not to support Assad.
"We do not side with any faction in Syria's internal battle,"
Lavrov was quoted as saying.
Russia and China, both permanent Security Council members,
have vetoed three Western-backed U.N. draft resolutions
condemning Assad's government for its handling of an uprising
that turned from peaceful protests into a civil war.