An explosion ripped through a busy intersection in the Syrian capital Friday, hitting a bus carrying police and killing up to 25 people. The bus was left riddled with shrapnel. The blast came exactly two weeks after twin bombings targeting intelligence agencies in the capital and killed 44 people.Interior Minister Mohammed Shaar said a suicide bomber "detonated himself with the aim of killing the largest number of people."
Syrian television showed residents and paramedics carrying human remains, holding them up for the camera. The explosion damaged a nearby police station, shattering its glass, and left blood and flesh in the streets, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. Police cordoned off the area with yellow police tape.
Syria's state media, SANA, said the initial death toll is 25 people. The figure includes 10 people confirmed dead and the remains of an estimated 15 others, whose bodies had yet to be identified. SANA said many of the dead are civilians.
The genefral secretary of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, meanwhile, asked Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Palestinian Hamas Movement to carry a message to the Syrian regime and to mediate in order that the Syrian government keeps its commitments vis à vis the mission of the Arab observers.The mission arrived in Syria on 19 December and will stay till 19 January unless its mandate is renewed by both the Arab League and Syria.
Meshaal and Al-Arabi spoke about one hour with each other and afterwards gave a press conference. According to El-Arabi’s statement, members of the mission are not having an easy time and the Syrian regime is yet to honour its commitments towards the Arab League in terms of ending the violence, pulling military vehicles out of urban areas, releasing political prisoners and pursuing political reforms.
“They are not having an easy time and their task is difficult. I am sending a message via Khaled Meshaal to ask the Syrian authorities to honour their commitments,” El-Arabi said.
The talks between Meshaal and Al-Arabi came less than 24 hours after El-Arabi met with the US Assistant Secretary of State Jeffry Feltman to discuss developments in Syria, in anticipation of an Arab League meeting on Syria on Sunday and a UN Security Council meeting on the same issue on Tuesday.
The has been a lot of criticism of the mission of the observers, who according to many were not professional enough and not up to their task. Syrian opposition figures have asked the Arab League to withdraw the mission and admit that it has failed in its task, as sharp hooters still remain on the roofs and troops are still in the streets. Opposition figures put the number of casualties since the observers began their mission at at least 390 dead.
Among those who asked the mission to be withdrawn was colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, the head of the Free Syrian Army, who said that troops carriers are painted blue in the colors of the police and political prisoners are being transferred to army barracks where the observers don't have access. The Qatari Prime Minister sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani discussed the matter with secretary Ban Ki Moon of the United Nations and asked UN-assistance. Syria on Thursday released 552 prisoners, last week a number of 755 prisoners was released.