Explosions Rock Northern Syrian City

Posted February 10th, 2012 at 4:05 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian state television says at least two explosions have hit the northern city of Aleppo Friday, causing an unspecified number of casualties.

Friday's blast occurred near a military intelligence building and a security force base. State television reports that the blast caused a number of casualties including civilian and military personnel.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported residents saying there were three blasts.

Aleppo, Syria's main commercial city, has been relatively quiet since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in March.

On Thursday, Syrian rights activists said government forces bombarded the rebellious central city of Homs for a sixth day, killing at least 60 people and leaving makeshift hospitals overwhelmed as divided world powers struggled to end the violence.

Activists say hundreds have died since the offensive began early Saturday. Several neighborhoods are reportedly without water and electricity and basic supplies are running low.

U.S. President Barack Obama called for an end to “outrageous bloodshed” in Syria in his latest condemnation of Mr. Assad's crackdown on the revolt.

VOA spoke with an activist in Homs who said government attacks are not letting up and that even walking one block can be deadly. “Everyday is worse than the day before,” he said of the assault, “more deaths, more injured, more destroyed buildings.” He said hospitals are overflowing with the wounded.

Continued violence was also reported Thursday in Zabadani and Daraa. Casualty figures from the fighting could not be confirmed because Syria restricts independent reporting.

Sectarian divisions have been rising as killings have increased on both sides of the conflict. Pro-government forces are led by members of President Bashar al-Assad's Shi'ite Alawite minority. Syrian authorities have blamed armed terrorists for the revolt, and said they are responsible for several attacks in recent days.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday he will consider sending a joint U.N.-Arab League team to Syria to monitor the violence. He also said his Arab League counterpart told him the bloc plans to send its own observers back to Syria.

The 22-member league withdrew its monitors in late January to protest the Syrian government's continued crackdown on protesters calling for an end to Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule. The observer mission had begun in December as part of an agreement with Damascus to halt the violence.

President Assad has pledged to assign his deputy to hold a dialogue with the opposition, but such groups have rejected talks with the government.

Meanwhile, Libya said Thursday it has given Syria's top envoy and embassy staff 72 hours to leave the country. Also Thursday, Germany said it is expelling four diplomats from the Syrian Embassy in Berlin after authorities arrested two men suspected of spying on Syrian opposition groups.

China, which joined Russia in vetoing a U.N. resolution on Syria, said it wants to maintain contact with Syrian activists after an opposition delegation visited Beijing last week. Moscow, a staunch ally of Damascus, has insisted any solution to end the bloodshed must come from within Syria.

Turkey says its government is ready to host an international conference to support the Syrian people, either in Istanbul or another regional country. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is in Washington to meet U.S. congressional leaders and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for talks likely to focus on Syria.

Washington has been exploring the possibility of providing humanitarian aid to Syrians in cooperation with U.S. allies. Western powers and Arab nations have said repeatedly they do not want to intervene militarily in the conflict.