Syria explosions deal new blow to crumbling truce

Sat, May 5, 2012, 01:00

An explosion killed at least five people in Aleppo and two blasts hit a Damascus highway today in further signs that rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad are shifting tactics towards homemade explosives.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Humans Rights, which monitors the 14-month-old revolt, said the Aleppo blast wrecked a car wash in Tal al-Zarazeer, one of the poorest suburbs of the mostly middle-class northern trading city.

A member of the rebel Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the bombing, telling Reuters in Beirut that the car wash was used by members of a pro-Assad militia.

"We placed a bomb inside a car," Ali al-Halabi said, naming the car wash owner and accusing him of raping a woman in front of her husband. "I went to the area afterwards and saw seven bodies and many wounded."

The Observatory put the death toll at five.

Aleppo has been spared the worst of a conflict that has turned some cities into battle zones, but on Thursday security forces and students wielding knives attacked anti-Assad protesters at the university, killing four and detaining 200.

In Damascus, two bombs exploded on central al-Thawra Street, destroying nine cars. There was no word on casualties.

Journalists saw mangled mini buses and a smashed yellow taxi being dragged away from the area later.

"We heard a big explosion," said a resident of the nearby Souq Sarouja neighborhood. "The security forces have blocked off the area now."

The bombings dealt another blow to a crumbling UN-backed truce. Fifty out of a planned total of 300 United Nations observers are now in Syria to monitor the ceasefire declared on April 12th, but their presence has not halted the violence.

Activists said at least 37 people were killed on Friday when security forces fired on protesters around the country.

Deadly blasts have shaken major cities as insurgents seek to even the odds between their outgunned forces and the tanks, artillery and helicopters in Assad's military arsenal.