Peace envoy pushes for Syria talks as deadly car bomb strikes Damascus
UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi today kept up his regional push for peace talks on Syria, where a suicide car bombing and assault on a key Damascus checkpoint killed 16 Syrian soldiers.
Damascus: UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi today kept up his regional push for peace talks on Syria, where a suicide car bombing and assault on a key Damascus checkpoint killed 16 Syrian soldiers.
Brahimi met with Egypt`s foreign minister yesterday, saying "intense efforts" were under way to convene a Syrian peace conference in Geneva next month.
Syrian state media blamed "terrorists" for a bombing at the entrance to the mixed Christian-Druze Damascus suburb of Jaramana.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a suicide bomber from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front detonated an explosives-packed car at the checkpoint between Jaramana and rebel-held Mleha.
Fighting raged for much of yesterday, with rebel mortar fire hitting Jaramana and regime aircraft striking back, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on activists and medics on the ground.
At least 16 soldiers and 15 jihadists were killed, it said. One resident said the fighting was "unprecedented" since Syria`s conflict erupted in March 2011, telling AFP by telephone: "It is very violent. We can hear automatic weapons fire, mortar rounds, bombardments."
The conflict, which erupted after President Bashar al-Assad launched a bloody crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired democracy protests, is believed to have killed more than 115,000 people.
Millions more have been forced to flee the country and hundreds of thousands are trapped by the fighting.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos yesterday called for a ceasefire in the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham, where thousands of people were evacuated last week and where she said "the same number or more remain trapped."
The founder of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, living in exile in Britain, told AFP it published the grim toll of the civil war to draw the world`s attention to the "endless bloodbath".
"Our objective is to release the truth about what is happening in Syria. We document, we verify and we report," said Rami Abdel Rahman, adding: "Our only agenda is defending human rights and reaching a democratic state."
In another sign of Syria`s growing misery, the World Health Organisation said it had detected two possible cases of polio in the eastern Deir Ezzor province which, if confirmed, would be the country`s first known cases since 1999.
Envoy heads next to Syria, Iran. Meanwhile, nine Lebanese Shiite pilgrims seized by Syrian rebels 17 months ago and two Turkish Airlines pilots kidnapped in Beirut in August arrived back home late yesterday under an exchange deal mediated by Turkey and Qatar.