BEIRUT -– Two massive explosions rocked the Syrian capital of Damascus on Thursday morning, killing more than 40 people and leaving 170 injured.
The two rush-hour blasts, which happened seconds apart, tore through a crowded intersection near a government security building in the Al Qazaz neighborhood in the southern part of the city. The explosions were heard and felt throughout Damascus.
Syrian state TV broadcast bloody scenes of the attack, with cars and their occupants charred beyond recognition and a deep crater in the road.
"It's horrible," a woman who lives in central Damascus said when reached by phone. "People in the streets from all backgrounds have this pale look. This is not Syria."
This was not the first time the capital has been hit with an explosion, but it appeared to be the most powerful and deadliest. Two weeks ago, as worshipers were leaving Friday prayers, a bomb went off near a mosque, killing at least eight people.
As in previous attacks, the regime of President Bashar Assad and the opposition traded blame. State media called it a terrorist plot and blamed foreign support.
"This is the work of the regime," said Moaz, an activist in Damascus. "No one else has the capability for an explosion like this, not the Free Syrian Army, not anyone. If the Free Syrian Army had this ability, it would have freed Syria a long time ago.”
The attack and the graphic video playing on a loop on state TV is a message to the opposition and to all Syrian citizens, he said.
"The message is don't mess with the regime and all the [U.N.] monitors don't matter to me [Assad] and I will convince the entire world with my point of view that there are terrorists in the country," Moaz said.
Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, head of the United Nations monitoring mission in Syria, visited the site of the explosions along with a small team of observers.
"This is yet another example of the suffering brought upon the people of Syria from acts of violence," Mood said. "We have seen it here in Damascus and we have seen it in other cities and villages across the country. We the world community are here with the Syrian people and I call on everyone within and outside Syria to help stop this violence."
On Wednesday, Mood and other monitors were in a convoy that passed through a military checkpoint in the southern province of Daraa just seconds after a roadside bomb went off. No one with the U.N. was hit, but 10 soldiers were injured.
Earlier this week in his briefing to the U.N. Security Council, special envoy Kofi Annan spoke of the worrying spate of recent bombings. He warned that Syria could descend into civil war.
-- Alexandra Sandels