Damascus car bomb kills 5, shatters Syria truce

Syrian regime accuses "terrorists" of carrying out car-bombing near makeshift playground built for Id al-Adha holiday.

Damascus car bomb 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Damascus car bomb 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT - A powerful car bomb exploded in Damascus on Friday, inflicting many casualties and buffeting a shaky temporary truce in the Syrian conflict on the occasion of a Muslim religious holiday.
State television said the "terrorist car bomb" had killed five people and wounded 32, according to "preliminary figures".
Opposition activists said the bomb had gone off near a makeshift children's playground built for the Id al-Adha holiday in the southern Daf al-Shok district of the capital.
Fighting erupted around Syria earlier as both sides violated the Id al-Adha ceasefire arranged by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but violence was far less intense than usual.
The Syrian military said it had responded to attacks by insurgents on army positions, in line with its announcement on Thursday that it would cease military activity during the four-day holiday, but reserved the right to react to rebel actions.
Brahimi's ceasefire appeal had won widespread international support, including from Russia, China and Iran, Syrian President Bashar Assad's main foreign allies.
The UN-Arab League envoy had hoped to build on the truce to calm a 19-month-old conflict that has killed an estimated 32,000 people and worsened instability in the Middle East.
Violence appeared to wane in some areas, but truce breaches by both sides swiftly marred Syrians' hopes of celebrating Id al-Adha, the climax of the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca, in peace.
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"We are not celebrating Id here," said a woman in a besieged Syrian town near the Turkish border, speaking above the noise of incessant gunfire and shelling. "No one is in the mood to celebrate. Everyone is just glad they are alive."
Her husband, a portly, bearded man in his 50s, said they and their five children had just returned to the town after nine days camped out on a farm with other families to escape clashes.
"We have no gifts for our children. We can't even make phone calls to our families," he said, a young daughter on his lap.
The imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque called on Arabs and Muslims to take "practical and urgent" steps to stop bloodshed in Syria.
Death toll far below recent average of 150-200 per day
For some in Syria, there was no respite from war, but by dusk the death toll was still significantly lower than in recent days, when often between 150 to 200 people have been killed.
The heaviest fighting took place around the army base at Wadi al-Daif, near the Damascus-Aleppo highway, which rebels have been trying to seize from the army for two weeks.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine soldiers were killed by rebel bombardment of the base, which completely destroyed one building, and four rebel fighters were killed in clashes around Wadi al-Daif.
Four people were killed by tank fire and snipers in Harasta, a town near Damascus, activists said. Gunfire and explosions echoed over Douma, just east of the capital. Rockets killed one person in the besieged Khalidiya district of Homs.
Clashes erupted at a checkpoint near the Mahlab army barracks in Aleppo. There was shooting at checkpoints near Tel Kelakh, on the Lebanese border, and clashes in the town itself.
Heavy machinegun fire and mortar explosions were audible along the Turkey-Syrian border near the Syrian town of Haram, a Reuters witness in the Turkish border village of Besaslan said.
Rebels in the northern town near the Turkish border said a sniper had killed one of their fighters early on Friday.
"We don't believe the ceasefire will work," rebel commander Basel Eissa told Reuters. "There's no Eid for us rebels on the front line. The only Eid we can celebrate will be liberation."
Syrian President Assad at Id al-Adha prayers (Reuters)Syrian President Assad at Id al-Adha prayers (Reuters)
Assad himself, who has vowed to defeat what he says are Islamist fighters backed by Syria's enemies abroad, was shown on state television attending Id prayers at a Damascus mosque.
The prime minister, information minister and foreign minister, as well as the mufti, Syria's top Muslim official, were filmed praying alongside the 47-year-old president.
Assad, smiling and apparently relaxed, shook hands and exchanging Id greetings with other worshippers afterwards.