BEIRUT -- A car bomb exploded in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Friday evening near a square where children had been playing, disrupting what was already a shaky holiday cease-fire. Casualties were reported but it wasn’t clear immediately how many people had died.
The government and opposition traded blame for the explosion in the Zuhour neighborhood and for breaking the truce on the first day of the Eid Al-Adha holiday. Video from the blast’s immediate aftermath showed fires in the street and the fronts of several buildings blown off as residents searched for bodies.
Early reports indicated at least a dozen people had been killed.
U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi had expressed hope that the four-day cease-fire could be used to broker a lasting end to the violence in the ongoing conflict between anti-government rebels and President Bashar Assad. But even when Assad’s government announced Thursday it had agreed to the truce, few held hope that it would succeed. Previous attempts at a cease-fire have failed and the violence in Syria has only escalated.
From the first few hours on Friday, opposition activists reported violations with shelling of several cities continuing and clashes breaking out in the northern city of Maarat Numan.
Elsewhere, many Syrians took advantage of the reduction in violence to stage anti-government demonstrations.
-- Times Staff
Photo: Photo released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency shows Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, shaking hands with people at the end of Eid al-Adha prayers Friday at al-Afram Mosque in Damascus. Credit: EPA / SANA