Suicide bomb in Damascus targets troops
01:53 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note:

Story highlights

The United States says it won't send any observers

The opposition blames the government for the violence

The Syrian government blames "armed terrorist groups" for cease-fire violations

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon says he is alarmed at continuing violence

CNN  — 

The embattled Syrian regime said it faced challenges from land and sea on Saturday as security forces beat back infiltrators, Lebanese soldiers seized smuggled arms and more clashes flared – another series of blows to a teetering U.N.-backed peace plan.

The attack, in the district of Midan, was described by the state-run news agency as a “terrorist bombing.”

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll from the suicide bombing at 10, and reported that most of the victims were regime forces.

ITN Reporter Bill Neely arrived at the scene moments after the blast erupted under a highway overpass. Dozens of riot police and troops had been huddled there, prepared to confront any demonstrators as they emerged from a nearby mosque to protest against the government. Such demonstrations are common after Friday prayers.

Neely, who is one of the few Western journalists allowed by the government to report from Syria, said one young man walked up to the security forces; when he was asked for his identification, the man reached into his jacket and detonated a suicide vest.

Body parts and tattered pieces of uniforms strewn nearby testified to the power of the blast, which wounded more than 20 people, many of them seriously, he said.

Many of the security forces who witnessed the event appeared shell-shocked, Neely said. Damascus has been largely spared such attacks, and the repercussions appeared psychological as well as physical.

The attack represented yet another serious blow to a peace process that has been fragile at best since it began, and evidence that it is being undermined by both sides.

Activists have accused the United Nations of failing to move quickly to get its peace monitors into Syria. As of Friday, just 13 were in the country of 22 million people. Another 15 are scheduled to arrive this weekend. “Are they arriving by horse?” one incredulous activist asked Neely, predicting there would be no peace to monitor by the time all 300 slated to arrive in the coming month actually get there.

Another three members of security forces were killed “when their car was targeted by unknown armed men” in Aleppo, the observatory said.

In addition to that tally, 18 more people – including a woman and three children – were killed Friday, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

The attacks provoked concern from Catherine Ashton, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security. “I call on all parties in Syria to cease immediately all forms of violence,” she said in a statement that reiterated her call for Syrian authorities “to fully respect the terms of the agreement with the UN.”

The United States said Friday it does not intend to provide monitors. “We are obviously supporting this mission financially and we are prepared to support it logistically as we evaluate its needs,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Syrian government officials and the opposition, meanwhile, traded accusations over the escalating number of cease-fire violations.

Syria consistently blames “armed terrorist groups” for the violence that has wracked the country for 13 months.

Armed terrorist groups have violated the cease-fire more than 1,300 times since it came into effect, Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud told state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

A Syrian opposition group says it has documented hundreds of deaths since the U.N. peace plan monitors began their work last week.

It has verified the identities of 462 people slain since April 16, when the mission started, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said Thursday. The number includes 34 children.

“Violent gunfire and bombing on Syrian cities haven’t stopped,” the LCC said.

The monitors report Syria is in “contravention” of its government’s commitment to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centers, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement released by his office.

The plan includes calls for President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition to end the bloodshed, allow humanitarian groups access to the population, release detainees and start a political dialogue.

U.N.-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan has said that the Syrian foreign minister told him heavy weapons and troops had been withdrawn from population centers and military operations had ended as called for by Annan’s six-point peace plan with which Damascus has said it will comply.

But shelling and fighting continues, with at least 35 killed Thursday, many of those deaths in Deir Ezzor, the LCC said.

“This is among the deadliest attacks, and is further proof that the Assad regime has no intention of implementing the Annan plan,” said Rafif Jouejati, LCC spokeswoman.

For 13 months, violence has raged between al-Assad’s forces and the opposition in a lopsided battle that has seen thousands of civilians killed amid a number of international attempts to broker a peace deal.

CNN cannot independently verify reports of violence and deaths within Syria, as the government has restricted access by international media.

CNN’s Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Arwa Damon, Amir Ahmed, Hamdi Alkhshali and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.