Antagonists in Syria accuse each other of subverting truce
BEIRUT — Syria’s official media reported a series of attacks against government buildings Monday, including two bombings that targeted two key security headquarters in the northern city of Idlib and a small rocket assault on the Central Bank in downtown Damascus.
Such assaults, along with what activists described as a major security sweep through the restive Damascus suburb of Douma, underscored that a U.N. cease-fire imposed less than three weeks ago existed more in name than in fact.
The government and the opposition blamed each other for the assaults, with mutual accusations of subverting the U.N. peace plan.
They also published divergent tolls, with the government media putting the count from Idlib at nine dead, many of them civilians, and 100 wounded. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 people had died, most in the security services. It said the two buildings targeted had housed the local branches of the army and the air force intelligence, two pillars of the police state and widely despised by opponents of the regime.
In Idlib, a housewife living in a residential neighborhood adjacent to the security headquarters said that just after dawn prayers she heard a loud blast and her building started to shake, damaging some windows and scaring her four children. She ran outside to survey the damage, she said, speaking on a regular phone line to Beirut but requesting anonymity for her own safety.
“Words cannot describe the scene, it was shocking,” she said, with many buildings and cars on the surrounding streets damaged.
Photographs from the scene showed a roughly six-story building with its facade torn off, the floors dangling one on top of the other in a cascade of broken concrete and twisted support rods. A fine layer of dust covered a wide area, with small pools of blood and a large crater in one road.
The government said two suicide bombers carried out the Idlib blasts in what it called terrorist attacks, which came within minutes of each other. The opposition said the government had staged the attacks and had blamed them on jihadi networks to convince U.N. monitors that the opposition was responsible for sabotaging the cease-fire in place since April 12.
Syria’s state-run television showed outraged citizens in the vicinity of the bombings or in the hospital repeating a standard government line.
“Is this the freedom they want?” said one woman near a group of wounded men lying on stretchers. “They want death. This is the murder of innocent people.”
But activists wondered how anyone wanting to attack government buildings at the center of Idlib could have approached them, since the military had turned the administrative center at the heart of the city into an armed camp after the uprising gathered momentum last year.