Syrian rebels launched two bloody attacks in Damascus on Monday, as bombs targeting troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed at least 50 security men as well as 11 others, according to an opposition group. The violence was not limited to official Syrian personnel, however, as rebels also suffered a major attack when troops launched an air strike targeting the northwest province of Idlib, killing 20.
"A fighter from the Nusra Front blew himself up ... At least 50 were killed," said Rami Abdelrahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "He drove his car to the center and then blew himself up. A series of explosions followed."
Abdelrahman, whose monitoring group is based in Britain, said the rural development center was used by Syrian security forces as one of their biggest bases in the area.
A second bomb attack in a western district of Damascus killed 11 people and wounded dozens more, including children, Syrian state media reported. Seif al-Sham, an Islamist rebel unit, claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted what it described as a meeting point for the army and police, as well as militia loyal to Assad and known as shabbiha (ghosts).
Assad's forces responded to the killings, launching a deadly air strike in the northwest province of Idlib which killed at least 20 Syrian rebel fighters, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory said in a statement that a rebel commander was also probably killed in the air strike on the town of Haram. An activist named the commander as Basil Eissa, head of the Idlib Martyrs' Brigade.
Much of Idlib, which borders Turkey, has fallen to the rebels as Syrian Assad's ground forces have withdrawn. But like other rebel-controlled areas, it remains vulnerable to air strikes.
Assad's warplanes fired rockets and tanks and artillery pounded the neighborhoods of Sbeineh, Yalda, Bibla, al-Tadamun and Hajar a-Aswad on Monday, the activists said.
Rebels also hit positions belonging to the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), an Assad proxy, in the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.
At least seven PFLP-GC members were killed in the fighting, and ambulances were seen taking dozens of casualties from Nisreen to a nearby hospital, activists in the area said.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Egypt's state al-Ahram daily in an interview published on Monday that Moscow is still supplying arms to Syria under Soviet-era commitments.
Russia sold the Syrian government $1 billion worth of weapons last year and has made clear it would oppose an arms embargo in the United Nations Security Council, contending that rebels would get weapons illegally anyway.
Lavrov claimed, however, that the arms being sent to Damascus were part of old Soviet contracts and did not violate international law.
He also accused foreign powers of arming the opposition to topple the government in breach of international law, adding that such weapons could fall into the hands of al-Qaida fighters.