Powerful blast hits Damascus ahead of new Syria talks

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A car bomb has gone off in an upmarket area of the Syrian capital, wounding several people – the state news agency says. Diplomats are due to attempt to revive stalled peace talks in Geneva on Tuesday.

The scene of an bomb blast last month in a Damascus neighborhood

The explosion took place in front of a 10-story building in the Kafar Sousse district in the southwest of Damascus, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported.

The blast hit a heavily-policed area where some of the country’s main security installations are based.

Many casualties

The bomb left “several wounded” and caused extensive damage, the Syrian state news agency SANA said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blast happened near an Iranian school, describing deaths among the casualties.

State media showed pictures of smashed glass and metal strewn from the front of a residential building where the car bomb was detonated.

The area was the scene of some of the first major sucide attacks in the Syrian conflict, in December 2011. But since then, car bombings in the city center have been relatively rare.

Syria map

The blast happened just as senior US and Russian diplomats were due to meet in Switzerland Tuesdayto revive the stalled UN-brokered Syria peace talks.

Moscow and Washington have been instrumental in pushing the negotiations, as Russia backs the Syrian government while the US supports rebel groups who seek to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Aleppo air strikes continue

Assad’s forces intensified their arial bombardment of rebel-held areas in Aleppo province Monday. Air strikes and barrel bombs killed 22 civilians, while rebel rocket fire on government areas killed three more, the Observatory said.

The strikes were believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes, and hit several locations including a market area, they added.

An AFP journalist at the scene of one of the attacks said rescuers were struggling to retrieve survivors who were trapped under heavy debris.

Urgent need for aid

Meanwhile, the United Nations has backed a call for a humanitarian truce in eastern Aleppo city, after an estimated 200,000 people were trapped by after the last remaining access route was cut off by regime forces. The aid plan has also been supported by Britain, France and the US.

UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien has warned that food supplies were expected to run out within three weeks.

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