Huge Blast Rocks Damascus

Kids dead, Russian embassy damaged

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 21, 2013 7:30 AM CST | Updated Feb 21, 2013 7:46 AM CST

(Newser) – A powerful car bomb exploded in central Damascus today, blowing out the windows of the Russian embassy, and killing at least some children at a nearby school. The bomb detonated at a security checkpoint between the embassy and the Baath Party Headquarters, the BBC reports. Activists say at least 31 people were killed—mostly civilians, according to Sky News. Syrian State Television said about 57 cars had been damaged in the explosion, which created a five-foot crater in the road. Meanwhile, the AP reports that 18 people have been killed in a government airstrike on a field hospital in Daraa.

The Damascus blast "was huge. Everything in the shop turned upside down," says one resident who witnessed a young girl being killed by flying glass. "I pulled her inside the shop, but she was almost gone." It was the first of four explosions to hit Damascus today, but is especially notable because the central city has been relatively insulated from such attacks, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, on the war's diplomatic front:

  • Russia's foreign minister and the Arab League's general secretary are urging the sides to create a unified transitional government. "Neither side can allow itself to rely on a military solution," Russia's Sergei Lavrov said, "because it is a road to nowhere."
  • But a senior Syrian National Coalition official said Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle "must go first," adding, "After that we can discuss with others in the regime who didn't share in the killing of our people."
  • But a draft rebel communiqué indicates they are willing to drop their demand that Assad depart as a precondition for talks. Britain's foreign secretary today said that opposition chief Mouaz al-Khatib had made a "very important offer of negotiation," and urged the regime to respond "with serious negotiations," the AFP reports.

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows first responders working after a huge explosion that shook central Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.   (AP Photo/SANA)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a Syrian fire fighter extinguishing burning cars after a huge explosion that shook central Damascus, Syria, Feb. 21, 2013.   (AP Photo/SANA)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian security agents carrying a body following a huge explosion that shook central Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.   (AP Photo/SANA)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows flames and smoke rising from burned cars after a huge explosion that shook central Damascus, Syria, Feb. 21, 2013.   (AP Photo/SANA)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows flames and smoke rising from burned cars after a huge explosion that shook central Damascus, Syria, Feb. 21, 2013.   (AP Photo/SANA)
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