Two explosions shook the Syrian capital of Damascus on†Saturday, leaving at least 27 dead and 97 wounded. As it has done following three previous explosions in December, January and February, in Damascus and in Aleppo, the government has blamed terrorists. The Syrian state news agency says that police and intelligence buildings were destroyed from bombs detonated from vehicles, though these reports cannot yet be verified.
Some members of the opposition have blamed the government for orchestrating some of these attacks. The explosions this morning have occurred the day before Kofi Annan, the joint envoy for the United Nations and for the Arab League, is to launch a mission and send a technical team to Damascus. The previous explosions in Damascus happened at the same time as Arab League monitors were in Syria.†As the BBC’s Lina Sinjab says, Annan is seeking a political solution to the crisis but President Bashar al-Assad has indicated that such is not possible so long as terrorist groups are operating in his country.
In an address to the UN Security Council on Friday, Annan had said that he was sending the new team to Damascus to discuss a new mission of international observers. “In the name of the people, and for the sake of humanity, let’s stop this brutality,” he said, while noting that the violence in Syria is “very dangerous and threatening” to the entire region. The Guardian noted that Annan’s efforts are the “latest in a series of fruitless efforts by regional and global leaders” to end the unrest in Syria, where anti-regime protests started over a year ago as of Thursday.
Syria’s neighbor Turkey is urging its citizens to leave Damascus and has announced that it will close its embassy there on March 22, both signs of how far the situation in Syria has deteriorated: At the start of the crisis, Turkey was Syria’s close ally, with the family of Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan vacationing with Assad’s. Turkey says it will maintain a “scaled-back diplomatic presence” in Syria. Last July, Turkey had called for the establishment of a buffer zone near its southern border after an assault on the Syrian town of of Jisr al-Shughur, following which Syrian refugees streamed across the border. Erdogan said on Friday that his government is “reviewing several options” for the creation of a buffer zone and that there will be “more clarity” following an April 2 meeting of the “Friends of Syria.”
Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have also announced that they are closing their embassies in Syria. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as well as a number of Western countries including the US have already done so.
So far there are about 14,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, which is anticipated that number to swell to 500,000. The Guardian reports that the number of refugees has surged in recent weeks, with families fleeing from Idlib into Turkey and from Homs towards Lebanon; both cities have recently been taken back under the control of the Syrian regime. Some 20,000-30,000 Syrians are thought to have already fled to Lebanon and a total of some 230,000 are believed to have been displaced by the violence; most remain inside Syria.
Some 8,000 to 9,000 have been killed in the uprising and activists report that up to 40 died at the end of this week.
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