BEIRUT -- Two car bombs rocked the northern Syrian city of Idlib early Monday morning and killed at least eight people, state media and residents reported, pushing the conflict further from a United Nations-backed cease-fire.
The explosions targeted the air force security and military security buildings in the southern part of the city dominated by government buildings.
State media put the death toll at eight people, though activists said that 20 people, civilians as well as security officers, were killed and more than 100 injured.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blasts. State media blamed the attacks on terrorist groups, the blanket term it has used to describe the opposition since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began more than a year ago.
The Syrian Arab News Agency also reported that the explosions happened near a hotel where U.N. observers had been staying and that the building had been damaged. But it was not clear whether the monitors were still at that hotel.
Neeraj Singh, the spokesman for the U.N. monitoring mission, confirmed that there are two observers in the city but refused to comment further on the situation.
The explosion happened at 6:30 a.m., soon after morning prayers, said one resident who lives in the Shimali neighborhood, in the northern part of the city.
“We are very far from the explosion and we still heard it,” she said. The sound was so loud that she and her family initially thought their neighborhood was being shelled again. The resident requested anonymity for safety's sake.
In Damascus, the official Syrian Arab News Agency said an armed group attacked the Central Bank of Syria with a rocket-propelled grenade, causing only minor exterior damage to the building. Elsewhere in the city, a group attacked a rescue patrol near a hospital with an rocket-propelled grenade, injuring four policemen, according to SANA.
In a statement Monday, the anti-government Local Coordination Committees said that these attacks as well as ones in previous days were orchestrated by the regime to divert attention from its obligation to comply with the U.N. six-point peace plan. The plan in part required the government to cease attacks on opposition and withdraw its tanks and heavy weapons from cities and towns, neither of which it has done.
“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,” the statement read, referring to bombings in January when Arab League observers were in Syria.
-- Alexandra Sandels
Photo: A handout photo made available by the official Syrian Arab News Agency shows a damaged building and cars at the site hit by two suicide bombings on Monday in Idlib, Syria. Credit: SANA handout / EPA.