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Syria: 'Huge explosion' rocks Damascus

January 20, 2019

The blast reportedly hit near an intelligence office in Damascus. Separately, Syrian officials say they repelled Israeli missiles near Damascus' airport, while Israel says it intercepted a rocket in Golan Heights.

Damascus skyline
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/H. Ammar

The Syrian capital was rocked by several major incidents on Sunday, with an explosion hitting near a military intelligence office and with Syrian state media saying forces repelled an Israeli aerial attack on Damascus International Airport.

Israel has not commented on the reports it carried out an air raid, but said that it intercepted a rocket that was fired at Syria's Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

What we know so far:

  • The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that a "bomb blast" hit southern Damascus and that a "terrorist" has been arrested over the incident. 
  • The independent war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the "huge explosion" killed and wounded a number of people, although they couldn't immediately verify the death toll.
  • The blast, which occured during rush hour on the first day of the working week, took place near a military intelligence office and "was not a random act," the Observatory reported.
  • In a separate incident, SANA reported that Israel fired six missiles near Damascus International Airport, but that Syrian forces shot down five of the missiles and diverted another to empty farmland.
  • Israel did not directly respond to the reports, but said instead that its Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted a rocket that was fired at the northern Golan Heights.

Read more: With 'Islamic State' in tatters, al-Qaida renews call for jihad

Brutal war

More than 300,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since 2011, when government forces launched a brutal campaign against peaceful protesters calling for the release of political prisoners and President Bashar Assad to step down.

The crackdown triggered civil strife, which has since transformed into a multi-faceted conflict that has drawn in nonstate actors, neighboring countries and global super powers, including Russia and the US.

Despite several UN-backed attempts to find a political solution to end the conflict, peace talks have floundered with no end of the war in sight.

Read more: In Syria, rebel defeat marks 'end of revolution'
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rs, ls/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)