Two massive car bombs exploded outside Syrian intelligence headquarters on
Friday, killing 44 people on the eve of the arrival of Arab League monitors
hoping to oversee implementation of a deal to stop nine months of
Syrian authorities blamed the attacks on al-Qaida, but
analysts and opposition members said the timing of the blasts suggests they may
have been an inside job perpetrated by the government of President Bashar
The UN Security Council issued a statement denouncing the attacks
and “terrorism in all its forms,” but a resolution condemning Syria continues to
be stalled by Russia, which has insisted both sides of the conflict be blamed
Sudanese Gen. Muhammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi was scheduled to
arrive in Damascus late on Saturday as head of the Arab League monitoring
“I am optimistic that the mission of the monitors will be
successful and that events such as yesterday’s blasts in Damascus will not
affect the mission,” he told reporters earlier in Cairo.
But the choice
of Dabi to lead the delegation has already stoked criticism from human rights
groups that note he was head of Sudan’s Military Intelligence at a time when
mass killings were taking place in Darfur.
“It is perplexing that the
Arab League chose [Dabi] to lead its team monitoring the Syria regime, because
of his record of turning a blind eye to human rights crimes, or worse,” the
US-based Enough Project said.
Dabi held a number of high-level
appointments in the Sudanese government from the 1980s on.
served as Sudan’s former head of Military Intelligence and when he oversaw
implementation of the Darfur Security Arrangement, alleged war crimes including
genocide were committed on his watch,” the group said.
executive director of the Washington-based Foreign Policy Initiative, said the
Syrian authorities’ contention that Friday’s explosions were the work of
terrorists rang hollow.
“I’m a bit skeptical,” he told The Jerusalem
Post. “The timing seems somewhat suspect, as it came right as the Arab League
monitors were arriving, and of course the Syrians took them to the scene
immediately and accused the opposition of sowing terrorism.”
Fly said he
feared the Arab League monitors – the first 50 of whom are set to arrive on
Monday – could be used as fig leaves to buy Damascus more time.
been somewhat impressed by how the Arab League has criticized the Assad regime
and imposed sanctions. But my fear is that monitors’ access to a lot of
locations will be severely restricted and that they will only see one side of
the story,” Fly said.
“Given the scope and scale of the violence we’ve
seen over the last week, increasingly I think we need some kind of outside
intervention to protect civilians,” he continued.
“My fear is that the
Arab League won’t move as quickly in that direction as long as the regime is cooperating with this concept of monitors.”
Foreign Policy Initiative was co-sponsored last week with an open letter signed
by some 50 policy experts and sent to US President Barack Obama urging stronger
American leadership on Syria.
Independent estimates put Syria’s death
toll at at least 5,000 since March, though the true figure could be much higher.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 15 civilians were killed
by security forces outside the capital on Friday, eight of them in Homs, a
bastion of the revolt.
On Saturday, thousands of Syrians chanted “Death
to America” during funeral processions in Damascus for the 44 people killed the
day before. Demonstrators cheered Assad, called for revenge and denounced Qatari
Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who has become one of Assad’s
main Arab critics.
The crowd, carrying posters of Assad and Syrian flags,
chanted, “We want your head, Hamad,” “We sacrifice our souls and blood for you,
Bashar,” and “God, Syria and Bashar only.”
The coffins, draped in Syrian
flags, were lined up inside the gilded 8th-century Umayyad Mosque, one of
Islam’s holiest sites, in scenes shown on state TV. Many were marked
Hamas condemned the bombings and called for a “quick”
political solution to end the bloodshed.
The Islamist group that governs
the Gaza Strip has its headquarters in Damascus, but diplomats say dozens of its
operatives have quietly returned to Gaza as it scaled back its presence in Syria
and gauged the uncertain future of Assad. Hamas denies such reports.
UN Security Council’s statement condemned the attacks.
“Terrorism in all
its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to
international peace and security, and... any acts of terrorism are criminal and
unjustifiable,” it said.
Western powers say the security forces have
perpetrated most of the violence in Syria. But Moscow, an old ally of Damascus,
wants any UN resolution on the crisis to be even-handed.
requirement is that we drop all reference to violence coming from extreme
opposition, that’s not going to happen,” UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said in
New York after Russia submitted a revised draft resolution to the
“If they expect us to have an arms embargo, that’s not going to
happen,” he said. “The experience of Libya showed it would be one-sided and used
against the government.”
Saad Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister
whose father was killed in 2005 by a car bomb widely attributed to Syria, wrote
on his Twitter feed that Friday’s explosion “was engineered by the Syrian
Hariri wrote that a supposed warning from Lebanon’s Hezbollah-
led, pro-Syrian government that al-Qaida operatives had infiltrated Syria this
week was “fabricated by the Syrian ministry and some of its tools in
Syria’s official SANA news agency quoted Lebanese MP Walid
Sukariyeh as saying the attacks appear to benefit the “Zio-American
Sukariyeh, a lawmaker from Hezbollah’s March 8 Alliance, said
the explosions “came in the service of the Zio-American project that rejects any
solution in Syria and any call for national dialogue, and is aimed at
undermining the resistance forces in the region.
“The criminality, which
started with terrorist acts against the civilians and the military, has now
developed into terrorist suicide operations in al-Qaida style,” he told Syrian
SANA also quoted Amin Hoteit, a former Lebanese Army general, as
saying the “agents of the West and Israel have started carrying out the
terrorist acts plan after the failure of the Zio-American-European plot to
In a separate story, SANA reported that Druse residents
of the Golan Heights had joined citizens across Syria in rallying against the
“The people of the occupied Syrian Golan stressed that terrorism
which struck in Damascus on Friday reflects the criminality of the armed groups
and their sponsors,” SANA said.
“In a rally at Sultan Pasha al- Atrash
Square in the occupied Majdal Shams, hundreds from Golan expressed condemnation
of the twin terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of scores of citizens,
stressing standing by their motherland Syria against challenges,” it
“The people of Golan said that the attacks prove the scope of
conspiracy against Syria, voicing readiness to sacrifice their blood for
preserving the dignity of Syria.”Reuters contributed to this report.