Wave of bombings, killings goes on in Syria
BEIRUT -- A series of blasts claimed more civilian lives Tuesday in the vicinity of the Syrian capital as scores were reported killed across the country in bombings, shelling, air raids and clashes between government forces and rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad.
On the streets of Damascus, meanwhile, assassins shot and killed the brother of Jihad Laham, the speaker of the Syrian parliament. Mohammed Osama Laham was shot by “terrorists” -- the government term for armed rebels -- as he drove in his car to work, according to the official Syrian news agency.
Opposition leaders say the Syrian parliament has long been a rubber stamp for Assad, whose family has ruled the country for more than 40 years. The parliament was revamped earlier this year as part of Assad’s proclaimed “reform” agenda, denounced as a sham by the opposition.
Both sides in the almost 20-month-old conflict have been accused of engaging in targeted assassinations.
The capital and its environs have endured a wave of deadly bomb attacks in recent weeks. It is not clear if the bombings are part of a coordinated rebel strategy or targeted attacks by various groups.
On Tuesday, the official state media reported, 11 people were killed and scores injured as three bombs exploded in the Wuroud district in the western Damascus suburb of Qudsaya. The government news agency said “terrorists” detonated a car bomb and two other explosive devices.
Photos displayed on state media showed children and other bloodied civilians, identified as bombing survivors, at what appeared to be a hospital. In one image, a woman with blood splattered on her face and clothes and apparently awaiting treatment cradles in her arms a sleeping girl whose yellow sweater is also stained with blood.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based pro-opposition group, estimated that at least 119 people were killed Tuesday across the country. At least 40 died in government bombardment of northwest Idlib province, which is mostly controlled by rebels.
The government has been using jet fighters firing rockets and bombs to attack opposition strongholds throughout the country, including the suburbs of Damascus.
Opposition activists have been reporting about 150 people killed daily inside Syria. The uprising that began in March 2011 has cost more than 30,000 lives, according to opposition groups. The government does not publish cumulative casualty figures.
In New York, Jeffrey Feltman, the United Nations' under-secretary-general for political affairs, warned Tuesday that the situation inside Syria “is turning grimmer every day.”
“The risk is growing that this crisis could explode outward into an already volatile region,” he said.
Some violence from Syria has already spilled into neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan; Israel has accused Syria of moving tanks into a demilitarized zone in the contested Golan Heights, captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
The United Nations has been unable to negotiate a truce to the Syrian fighting. A special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, is trying to craft a proposal to help end the bloodshed, though a weekend truce he helped broker last month fell apart quickly amid violations by both sides.
--Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: A picture supplied by the Syrian Arab News Agency shows damage it says was caused by car bombs in the western Damascus region on Tuesday. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency / SANA