A bomb blast in the government-held center of Damascus killed 13 people on Tuesday, state television said, while rebels and loyalists to President Bashar al-Assad traded accusations over what they said was a chemical weapons attack the day before.
Residents described scenes of carnage in Marjeh Square, in a commercial district in the heart of the capital, with dozens of cars and buildings damaged by the bomb which went off in front of the former Interior Ministry building.
“Glass was shattered around the whole block and shop keepers were using brooms to clean up the glass in front of their shops,” said one resident who declined to be named, fearing arrest for speaking to the media.
State-run Syria Television said 70 people were also wounded, several critically, in what it said was an attack by “terrorists” fighting to overthrow Assad.
Three mortar bombs landed in the government-held district of Baramkeh a few hours after the bomb, opposition activists said.
The British-based Syrian Observatory said nine civilians and five security personnel had been killed, but said the toll was likely to rise. It came a day after Prime Minister Wael al-Halki survived an attack on his convoy in the Syrian capital.
Opposition activists described similar scenes of bloodshed in the central city of Hama where they said 13 civilians were killed in heavy government bombardment.
Fighting in Syria, now entering its third year, has intensified in the last month with government forces attempting to roll back rebel advances.
Some 70,000 people have now been killed in the civil war.
Each side blamed the other for what they both said was a chemical attack in the northern city of Saraqeb on Monday.