Syria held funerals Saturday for 26 people who the government said were killed
by a suicide bomber a day earlier at a busy Damascus junction.
and opposition activists, however, accused the regime of staging the bombing –
the second in the Syrian capital in as many weeks.
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showed a cortege of ambulances bearing the flag-draped coffins of victims to a
Damascus mosque after driving through streets lined with mourners. Crowds
chanted “The people want Bashar Assad!” and “One, one, one, the Syrian people
are one!” Analysts said footage shown on state media immediately after the blast
took place in the Maidan district looked suspicious.
“Blood is shown
scattered in small uniform pools and greatly distanced, which is the exact
opposite of all the usual terrorist explosion footage or scenes,” a Syrian
journalist told The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity. “The same goes for
the body parts and pieces... The body parts have no blood stains under
The journalist, who now lives abroad, said regime-linked TV crews
reached the area long before security forces, even though media outlets
generally require dozens of security clearances before entering a bomb
“The explosion took place around 11 a.m. right before
Friday prayers, which means most streets were vacant, thus explaining the
relative low casualty figure,” he said.
Bodies shown in the footage are
almost all lying on their backs or sides, and at one point the camera focuses on
a severed head neatly placed on the ground and almost entirely clean of
Michael Weiss, a Syria specialist at the Henry Jackson Society in
London, said the Syrian government had a rich history of manipulating
“Anyone who knows this regime recognizes that it’s more than capable of
elaborate theatrics to both dupe the West into sympathizing with it and
provide a pretext for further massacres.”
Weiss noted that this
weekend’s explosion bore many of the same signs as a bombing two weeks ago near
Syrian intelligence headquarters. In that incident, he said, the regime
“broadcast an unintentionally hilarious claim on state TV that it had ‘arrested
the terrorists who blew themselves up today.’ Then it blamed the Muslim
Brotherhood and invented a bogus website for the group claiming responsibility.
The Assadist school of falsification is something many still, bizarrely, don’t
Syrian Interior Minister Ibrahim al-Shaar promised to hit
back with an “iron fist” for the blast, which he said wounded more than 60
Hezbollah, heavily funded by Syria and Iran, blamed the blast on
“evil American forces and those under its control in our region to punish Syria
for its firm support of resistance forces against the Zionist enemy and the
A US State Department representative said that, as with previous
attacks, Syria had blamed “just about everybody” – the opposition, al-Qaida and
the United States – but that circumstances were premature to assign
Security forces killed four civilians in Homs on Saturday, and
three people died in Harasta from wounds inflicted on Friday, the Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights reported. It also said security forces had killed
20 civilians and three army defectors on Friday.
On Saturday, Al Jazeera
reported a high-ranking Syrian military official had defected in protest against
Flanked by soldiers brandishing rifles, a man named by Al
Jazeera as Col. Afeef Mahmoud Suleiman read out a statement saying they were
defecting after witnessing acts of violence by the army on
“We soldiers have defected from this army after watching the
military and security forces killing protesting civilians with all kinds of
weapons,” said Suleiman, who Al Jazeera said was from the army’s air force
logistics division in the city of Hama.
The channel reported that up to
50 soldiers had defected along with Suleiman. Thirteen men dressed in camouflage
could be seen standing behind him in the video.
occurred ahead of an Arab League committee meeting in Cairo on Sunday to discuss
the future of a monitoring mission to check whether Syria is keeping its pledge
to halt the 10-month crackdown, in which at least 6,000 people are believed to
have been killed.
On Friday, the Arab League asked the Damascus-based
leader of Hamas to help push Syria to halt violence. Arab League
Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby was speaking alongside Hamas leader Khaled
Mashaal after a meeting in Cairo.
“I gave him a message today to the
Syrian authorities that it is necessary to work with integrity, transparency and
credibility to halt the violence that is happening in Syria,” Elaraby said. He
said the Hamas leader had played a role in convincing the Syrian government to
sign the Arab League protocol.
“Since the start of the crisis, we in
Hamas and myself personally, have made a huge effort to solve the crisis through
a political solution, and we have kept up these efforts,” Mashaal
Damascus is host to the main Hamas headquarters outside of the Gaza
Reuters contributed to this report.