Powerful explosion hits Damascus killing at least 13 people

A powerful explosion hit the Marjeh district of central Damascus Tuesday, killing at least 13 people and injuring 70 others, according to Syrian state TV. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that nine civilians and three security men were killed and stated that the death toll is likely to rise. The blast ...

AFP/Getty Images/LOUAI BESHARA
AFP/Getty Images/LOUAI BESHARA
AFP/Getty Images/LOUAI BESHARA

A powerful explosion hit the Marjeh district of central Damascus Tuesday, killing at least 13 people and injuring 70 others, according to Syrian state TV. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that nine civilians and three security men were killed and stated that the death toll is likely to rise. The blast hit near a hotel, shopping center, and a former interior ministry building and was followed by sporadic gunfire. The explosion came from a booby-trapped car. It is not clear who was behind the attack, or what was the intended target. The attack came a day after a car bombing in the Damascus neighborhood of Mezze, which targeted Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halki, who survived the attack. Opposition fighters have increased attacks on Syria's capital, but neither rebels nor the government forces have made significant gains.

Headlines

An Israeli airstrike on Gaza killed a Palestinian militant on Tuesday hours after an Israeli settler was stabbed, shot, and killed by a Palestinian man at a West Bank bus stop in a recent escalation of violence. Between 20 and 30 armed militants have surrounded Libya's Justice Ministry, stepping up demands for barring Qaddafi-era officials from government offices. UAE President Sheikh Khalifa al-Nahyan is visiting Britain amid concerns over three jailed British men who were allegedly tortured by Dubai police. Egypt withdrew from global nuclear talks on Monday in Geneva, accusing other countries of not acting quickly enough. 

A powerful explosion hit the Marjeh district of central Damascus Tuesday, killing at least 13 people and injuring 70 others, according to Syrian state TV. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that nine civilians and three security men were killed and stated that the death toll is likely to rise. The blast hit near a hotel, shopping center, and a former interior ministry building and was followed by sporadic gunfire. The explosion came from a booby-trapped car. It is not clear who was behind the attack, or what was the intended target. The attack came a day after a car bombing in the Damascus neighborhood of Mezze, which targeted Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halki, who survived the attack. Opposition fighters have increased attacks on Syria’s capital, but neither rebels nor the government forces have made significant gains.

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

Would Americans stomach a war in Syria? (David Kenner, Foreign Policy)

"As President Barack Obama mulls what to do about evidence that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its own citizens, two new polls gauging Americans’ attitudes toward intervention won’t make his decision any easier.

A Pew survey released yesterday showed lukewarm American support for intervention. Asked their opinion of the United States taking military action against the Syrian regime if it was proved Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, 45 percent of respondents said they were in favor, while 31 percent said were opposed. In a reflection of the U.S. public’s ambivalence on this issue, the remainder — almost one-quarter of all respondents — said they didn’t know.

A New York Times/CBS poll released today, meanwhile, finds that 62 percent of Americans do not believe the United States has a "responsibility" to intervene in Syria. The New York Times, in its article on the poll, used that finding to make the cast that "the public does not support direct military action" in Syria now."

Counterfeit culture (Haaretz)

"The fierce public debate over the fact that no Jews of Middle Eastern origin were chosen to appear on the new set of Israeli banknotes is a political argument that has nothing to do with cultural representation.

Many hastened to relate the decision by the Bank of Israel’s Committee for Planning Banknotes, Coins and Commemorative Coins to other discriminatory phenomena, such as insufficient Mizrahi representation on the Supreme Court, on the Israel Prize committees or at the Israel Lands Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was taken aback by the storm, pulled Rabbi Yehuda Halevy out of his hat as a worthy representative of Mizrahi poetry, and made an unauthorized promise to include him the next time the currency is redesigned. Netanyahu isn’t really bothered by cultural discrimination; he was simply apprehensive that the "ethnic genie" would once again come out of the bottle and wreak some political damage."

–By Jennifer T. Parker and Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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