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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora