At least 26 Syrians were killed and more than 60 others injured on Friday when an explosion rocked Damascus’ central district of Maidan, the state television reported, barely a fortnight after two suicide bombers killed 44 people in the Syrian capital.
The television said the blast was caused by a “terrorist” suicide bomber.
The “powerful explosion” struck in the Midan neighborhood in the heart of the city, state television said.
“We will strike back with an iron fist at anyone who is tempted to play with the security of the country or its citizens,” Syria Television quoted Interior Minister Ibrahim al-Shaar as saying.
Shaar also said the death toll from the bombing in Damascus killed 26 people, one higher than an earlier toll. Fifteen bodies could not be identified after they were “torn to pieces in the blast,” he said.
The ministry estimated that 63 people had been injured.
Earlier on Friday, the official SANA news agency spoke of casualties among both civilians and security force personnel and the wail of ambulance sirens was heard in the city center.
The Dec. 23 bombings sparked a swirl of claims and counter-claims over who was responsible, with the authorities saying they were likely the work of al-Qaeda and the opposition pointing the finger at the regime.
A team of Arab League observers has been in Syria since December 26 trying to assess whether President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is complying with a peace accord aimed at ending its deadly crackdown on dissent.
The “Syrian Revolution 2011” group, one of the driving forces on the Internet behind the uprising, called on Facebook for demonstrations on Friday to urge the “internationalisation of our cause.”
The appeal for people to take to the streets following the main weekly Muslim prayers comes ahead of an Arab League meeting Sunday to discuss the mission which has come in for scathing criticism this week.
The head of the rebel Free Syrian Army has called on the Arab League to admit the mission has been a failure and urged the bloc to seek UN help to end the bloodshed.
Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, in a telephone interview with AFP in Beirut on Thursday, said: “We hope they will announce that their mission was a failure.
“We call on the Arab League to step aside and let the United Nations take over responsibility as it is more apt to find solutions.”
Asaad charged that the government was misleading the monitors and using all means to circumvent the deal it signed with the League.
“Authorities, for example, transferred prison inmates to army barracks where the observers are not allowed according to the protocol,” said the dissident colonel.
“Military vehicles are painted blue and identified as ‘anti-terrorist police’ to make believe that it’s the police” who are battling what the regime calls “armed gangs.”
“We, and all the Syrian people, want the United Nations to step in because the Arabs are not capable of taking any real decisions when it comes to Syria,” said Asaad.
The U.N. estimates more than 5,000 people have been killed in the crisis since March, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces killed another 17 civilians on Thursday alone.