News / Middle East

At Least 5 Killed in Damascus Mosque Attack

A view shows the wreckage after a car bomb exploded in the Syrian capital Damascus September 7, 2012
A view shows the wreckage after a car bomb exploded in the Syrian capital Damascus September 7, 2012
An explosion outside a mosque in Syria's capital killed five security personnel and wounded several others Friday, as fighting raged in other areas of Damascus and dozens of bodies were reported found in two neighborhoods.

Syrian state television said the blast was caused by an explosives-rigged motorcycle at the Rukniyeh mosque in central Damascus. The Syrian capital has been hit by a string of explosions since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March last year.

Anti-government protests broke out in the capital and elsewhere, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fresh clashes between government troops and rebels in the Kazaz neighborhood of Damascus. The tightly controlled area is home to offices of several Syrian security agencies.

The British-based group also said Syrian residents have recovered 45 unidentified bodies in two areas near the capital, the latest such finds of suspected mass executions in the 18-month-long conflict.

At least 23 bodies were discovered Thursday in the eastern suburb of Zamalka, while another 22 were found in Qatana, southeast of the capital.

International Aid

In Geneva, the new head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said he had received "positive" commitments from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad this week to gain access to detainees and free up deliveries of badly needed aid.

Peter Maurer said his talks with Assad were "sober" and "clearly focused on humanitarian needs."

The ICRC chief told reporters he also visited rural areas around Damascus where residents told him "horrific accounts of armed attacks" and left him shocked. He said the accounts left him no doubt that Syria is engulfed in civil war since "all features of armed conflict are unfolding in front of us."

Maurer said he also received a positive response from Assad on his request to visit detainees.

The ICRC conducted a first series of visits to detainees in Damascus central prison last September. But future visits were stalled because the Syrian authorities did not allow Red Cross workers to interview prisoners in private or allow them to make follow-up visits.  

Those disagreements were later resolved. In May, the ICRC was allowed to visit inmates at Aleppo Central prison.  However, no visits have since taken place.

Maurer says the ICRC is in regular contact with opposition groups in Syria and abroad.  He says the agency is pressing these groups for permission to visit the prisoners they are holding.

Refugees

Registered Syrian Refugees by Country

Turkey:      50,227
Jordan:     39,600
Lebanon: 35,686
Iraq:           9,053
 
Source: UNHCR
The European Union said Friday it will provide an additional $76 million in humanitarian aid to Syria as the number of people needing assistance topped 2.5 million.

Kristalina Georgieva, EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, said the new funds would go to providing shelter, medical aid and for other humanitarian purposes.

Also Friday, the United Nations refugee agency said the number of Syrians fleeing their homes continues to soar and that it would more than double aid to people displaced inside the country.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the need for assistance within Syria is huge and requires a separate plan from the aid for refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.

So far, more than 246,000 Syrian refugees have been registered or are awaiting registration in surrounding nations, it added.

"The numbers are enormous," an agency spokesman said.

Of those refugees, more than 81,000 have entered Jordan, nearly 65,000 are in Lebanon, more than 78,000 are in Turkey and nearly 22,000 are in Iraq, according to UNHCR statistics.

Some information for this report was provided by Lisa Schlein in Geneva,  AP, AFP and Reuters.

Photo Gallery: Latest Images from Syria

  • This image made from video provided by Shaam News Network (SNN) and accessed by the Associated Press on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 purports to show people walking through rubble after shelling in Idlib, Syria.
  • Residents inspect the damage after what was said to be an air raid by Syrian government forces near Azaz, September 3, 2012.
  • A Syrian child stands next to rebel fighters checking a house that was damaged in bombing by government forces in Marea, on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, September 4, 2012.
  • A Syrian rebel fighter prepares his AK-47 before going on patrol in Marea, on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, September 4, 2012.
  • A view shows the wreckage after a car bomb exploded in the Jaramana district of southeast Damascus September 3, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
  • Civilians wait to receive food rations in the Bab Al-Salam refugee camp in Azaz. At the Azaz-Kilis crossing, Syrians described dire conditions for refugees still trapped on the other side of the border.
  • Syrian Hamzah Abu Bakri, displays portraits of his brothers who were killed last week while standing by their vegetable shop in Aleppo, Syria, September 2, 2012.
  • Boys play on a Syrian military tank (destroyed during fighting with the rebels), in Azaz, September 2, 2012.
  • A Syrian refugee hangs clothes to dry at Zaatari Refugee Camp, in Mafraq, Jordan, September 2, 2012.
  • Syrian barbers who fled their homes shave the heads of other displaced men at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey.
  • A civilian pushes a baby stroller containing his belongings as he flees the El Edaa district in Aleppo, September 2, 2012.

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs