Tension in Damascus after deadly explosions
By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo
Four people were killed and more than 20 were wounded Wednesday (May 9th) in two consecutive blasts in the Syrian capital of Damascus that went off in a public square known to be crowded with civilians.
The attack came as fierce fighting continues between the Syrian regime and allied militias on one side and the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) on the other in the vicinity of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the city's south.
Government employee Haitham al-Haddad, 40, who was at his workplace in the Ministry of Endowments (Awqaf) near the site of the explosion, told Diyaruna that tension prevails in Damascus in the aftermath of the incident.
A large number of army, police and plain-clothes security personnel have been deployed in the wake of the blast, which went off at 11:25 p.m. Wednesday in al-Maisat Square in the city's al-Marjah district, he said.
The blast went off in front of the Wimpy cafe, near the Ministry of Endowments.
Preliminary reports indicate four civilians were killed and more than 20 were wounded, some seriously.
Second blast in same area
A second blast, determined to have been caused by a rocket, struck the Damascus Commercial Tower in the same area, causing only material damage.
There were conflicting reports about the cause of the blast, al-Haddad noted, as official reports initially said two rockets had fallen in the area, with later reports indicating that a car bomb or improvised explosive device (IED) had detonated.
One car was destroyed, and its debris was scattered at the site of the blast.
A medium-sized school bus also was gutted by fire, he said, and information indicates the driver was killed.
According to local sources, he added, "the blast occurred as students left a learning institute in the area, killing a mathematics teacher and wounding a number of students".
"The remains of the rocket resemble locally-manufactured rockets," he said, noting that it is likely to have been fired from al-Hajar al-Aswad near Yarmouk camp, where ISIS has been battling the Syrian regime and its allies.
Two rockets landed at about the same time in al-Zahra al-Jadeeda neighbourhood of Damascus without causing casualties, he added.
ISIS "has fired rockets intermittently on the capital" since April 19th, when pro-regime forces ramped up their fight against the group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
The regime set its sights on Yarmouk and nearby areas after retaking the former opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta east of the capital last month.
Overnight strikes near Damascus
Meanwhile, Israeli strikes on several areas of Syria overnight killed at least 23 Syrian soldiers and regime-allied fighters, AFP reported Thursday.
Israel's army said it hit dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria in retaliatory raids, after around 20 rockets were fired at its forces at around midnight in the occupied Golan Heights from Syria.
It blamed the rocket fire on Iran's elite al-Quds force.
Around 28 Israeli warplanes took part in the raids, firing about 70 missiles.
Areas near Damascus as well as in the centre and south-west of the country were among the targets, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.