'Dozens' killed in Syria attacks
At least 20 Syrian security men were killed when two explosives-laden cars drove into a military camp in the southern town of Deraa today an opposition watchdog said, in what appeared to be a double suicide attack by rebel forces.
In a conflicting report, state news agency SANA said three bombs had gone off in the town near the border with Jordan, killing seven people in what it described as a series of terrorist attacks.
Suicide bombings by hardline Islamist militant groups have become a regular feature of the 19-month old uprising against president Bashar al-Assad, though there were no immediate claims of responsibility for Saturday's attacks in Deraa.
The UK-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the first car had driven into a Deraa military camp and exploded. The casualties were caused by the detonation of the second vehicle which followed it, the Observatory said.
The Syrian state media report did not mention a military target. It said one bomb had gone off in a busy commercial street.
A second - a car packed with anti-tank mines which did not all explode - was set off near a government office, damaging it and nearby commercial and residential buildings, it said.
The Syrian government routinely blames foreign-backed Islamist militants for the anti-Assad revolt, in which the Observatory says about 38,000 people have been killed.
A suicide bomber killed around 50 members of the Syrian security forces in the province of Hama on Monday, the Observatory reported.
The southern city of Daraa was the birthplace of the Syrian uprising against Assad, which began in March 2011. The conflict began largely with peaceful protests against Dr Assad’s rule but turned bloody after rebels took up arms in response to the regime’s crackdown.
The crisis has since morphed into a vicious civil war and in recent months, rebels have driven regime forces out of much of a pocket of north-western Syria and are battling troops in several cities and towns, even as the fight takes on dangerous sectarian tones between a mainly Sunni opposition and a regime dominated by Dr Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.
Explosions targeting state security institutions have become frequent in recent months, and military intelligence branches in Damascus and other cities have been hit. Most dramatically in July, rebels detonated explosives inside a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus, killing four top regime officials, including Dr Assad’s brother-in-law and the defence minister.
Activists say more than 36,000 people have died in Syria during the nearly 20-month-old conflict.
The explosions in Daraa come a day after as many as 11,000 people were said to have fled Syria over just 24 hours, to escape fierce fighting between rebels and government forces - the latest surge of refugees fleeing the civil war.
The flood of Syrians into neighbouring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon was “the highest that we have had in quite some time,” said Panos Moumtzis, the UN refugee agency’s regional co-ordinator for the region said yesterday.
About 2,000 to 3,000 people are fleeing Syria daily, and the recent surge brings the number registered with the UNHCR to more than 408,000, he said.
The largest flow into Turkey came from the fighting at Ras al-Ayn in the predominantly Kurdish oil-producing north-eastern province of al-Hasaka, where rebels were fighting government forces.