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Car blast rocks Damascus funeral, rebel areas pounded

AFP , Tuesday 28 Aug 2012
Syria car explosion
Civil Defence members extinguish fires on cars at the site of an explosion outside Syria's highest court in central Damascus June 28, 2012. (Photo: Reuters/ Sana)

A car exploded during a funeral in a Damascus suburb on Tuesday killing several people, Syrian state television reported, as a watchdog said regime forces shelled rebel bastions in the capital, the commercial hub Aleppo and the northwest village of Kfar Nabal.

The violence followed a bloody Monday in which 190 people -- 116 civilians, 40 rebels and 34 soldiers -- were killed across Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the state television report of a blast in the capital's southeastern Jaramana suburb, and said it was caused by a car bomb.

"In the suburb of Jaramana, a car laden with explosives hit a funeral held for two regime supporters," said the Britain-based watchdog. "Some people were critically injured."

The funeral was held for two people killed in a bomb attack on Monday, the Observatory said.

The attack came amid a marked escalation of army shelling targeting the eastern belt of Damascus, home to some of the rebel Free Syrian Army's best organised battalions.

The Observatory said that at least four soldiers were killed in fighting with rebels in Zamalka and Jubar, which followed fierce shelling through the night of the two eastern neighbourhoods as well as the adjacent districts of Qaboon and Ein Tarma.

On Monday, rebels from the Free Syrian Army claimed to have downed a military helicopter in Qaboon during heavy shelling and fierce fighting that also engulfed nearby Jubar as well as several towns outside the capital.

The offensive in the capital's east follows a regime onslaught on its southwestern belt last week which, according to the opposition, included a massacre in the town of Daraya in which hundreds died.

Army bombardment Tuesday of the village of Kfar Nabal in the northwest province of Idlib, meanwhile, killed at least 13 civilians, including two women, according to the Observatory.

Gruesome footage released by the Syrian Revolution General Council, an activist network on the ground, shows pandemonium in Kfar Nabal as dozens of residents struggle to retrieve the mangled bodies of their neighbours beneath ashen coloured rubble.

Several microbuses are engulfed in flames and plumes of billowing smoke are seen rising from shelled out building after what the SRGC said was an attack by warplanes.

Groups of men struggled to pick up several charred bodies, unloading them hastily on the back of a truck and the backseat of a car, which sped off for help. The footage could not be independently verified.

Elsewhere in Idlib, four rebels were killed in clashes in Ariha, while seven men were killed by government troops in the central province of Hama, bringing Tuesday's initial toll by the Observatory to 31 victims.

In Syria's second city Aleppo, government forces rained shells down on the Sukari district in the south and Hanano in the northeast, the Observatory reported, adding that one civilian died in shelling elsewhere in the province.

Two rebels were killed in fighting between the army and insurgents in the contested districts of Salaheddin and Saif al-Dawla in Aleppo's southwest, it said.

Pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper on Tuesday reported that the army had "cleansed" the neighbourhood of Al-Izaa, adjacent to Saif al-Dawla district, from armed men and seized large quantities of arms and ammunition.

"This opens the way for cleansing the neighbourhood of Zabdiyeh and seizing the Saif al-Dawla and Sukari districts," it said.

The army took back Salaheddin in early August, but pockets of resistance remain, while the rebels continue to hold sway over Saif al-Dawla and Sukari.

The Observatory says more than 25,000 people have been killed since an uprising against Assad broke out in March last year.

The figures are impossible to verify due to restrictions on the media.

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