18 killed as car bombers strike Damascus
DAMASCUSA suicide car bomber pursued by security forces blew himself up in eastern Damascus on July 2, with a monitor reporting 18 killed in the deadliest attack to hit the Syrian capital in months.
Syrian state media and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said security forces intercepted three car bombers on their way into the city early on July 2.
State television said two of the vehicles were blown up on the outskirts of the city.
A third managed to reach the eastern Tahrir Square district, where he was surrounded but able to detonate a bomb.
The Observatory, a Britain-based monitor, said 18 people were killed in the bombing, including at least seven members of pro-regime security forces and two civilians. It had not identified the remaining victims.
Syrian state news agency SANA quoted an interior ministry statement as saying two of the vehicles had been “destroyed” at a roundabout on the road to the city’s airport.
The driver of the third blew himself up while being pursued, it said, “killing a number of civilians, injuring others, and causing material damage to public and private properties.”
An AFP correspondent at Tahrir Square saw extensive damage to nearby buildings. Two bombed-out cars were visible to one side of the square, which was strewn with debris.
A woman was crying in an apartment near the site of the attack. Her balcony had collapsed and the living room was a mess of broken glass and shattered masonry, with pictures and curtains strewn across the floor.
The woman said her daughter had been taken to hospital after being injured by flying glass.
Tahrir Square resident Mohammad Tinawi told AFP that he had heard “gunfire at around 6:00 am local time, then an explosion which smashed the glass of houses in the neighborhood.”
He said he had seen Red Crescent volunteers treating two wounded soldiers. A shopkeeper confirmed that the explosion had gone off at around 6:00 am.
Damascus has been spared the large-scale battles that have devastated other major Syrian cities during the country’s six-year civil war.
But dozens of people have been killed in bombings, particularly on the outskirts of the capital.
In mid-March, bomb attacks on a courthouse and restaurant in central Damascus killed 32 people. That rare assault in the heart of the city, which remains under government control, was claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
That came days after two explosions that left 74 dead in the capital’s Old City and were claimed by the Tahrir al-Sham coalition led by the jihadist Fateh al-Sham Front.
Israel, meanwhile, returned fire at Syrian army forces late on July 1 after two stray artillery rounds hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Israeli army said.
“In response to projectiles launched earlier today at Israel from Syria, Israeli forces targeted the Syrian military artillery position that was the source of the previous fire,” a statement said.
Earlier the army warned Syria to expect retaliation after the rounds fell in the Israeli-controlled zone of the strategic plateau, the latest of a string of incidents across the armistice line.
Both of the July 1 stray rounds were the “result of internal fighting in Syria,” the army said, adding that there were no reports of casualties.