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Syrian Activists: At Least 9 Dead in Damascus Car Bombing

by VOA News January 03, 2013

Opposition activists say a car bomb in the Syrian capital has killed at least 9 people, and say the death toll is expected to rise because many of the wounded are in critical condition.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say the blast occurred late Thursday at a gas station in a northern neighborhood of Damascus. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Syria's state news agency SANA said the car bomb targeted vehicles waiting to get gasoline, and blamed the attack on 'terrorists' -- a word frequently used by the government to describe rebels seeing to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

​​Activists on Wednesday blamed the government for an airstrike on another gas station near the capital, triggering an inferno that killed or wounded dozens of people.

Separately, activists reported intense overnight battles around a strategic air base in northern Idib province, describing the fight near the Taftanaz military base as an apparent rebel bid to weaken the government's air capabilities.

SANA said security forces 'strongly confronted' an attempted attack by 'terrorists' near the military base, and said the fighting began late Wednesday.

A similar attack, on Tuesday, prompted officials to close the airport in Aleppo.

The United Nations estimates 60,000 people have died in Syrian fighting, a figure that surpasses opposition estimates by about one-third.

Civil war between rebels and the Assad government has gripped Syria since evolving from peaceful anti-government protests in March 2011. ​​
U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said death reports from seven separate sources were cross-referenced by experts to arrive at the new toll.

Journalist Moubayed says the estimate of 60,000 deaths is probably low.

'I think that the number of missing people is not taken into account. I think that there are much more casualties in terms of civilians and in terms of army personnel,' he said. 'Syrian TV, state-run media, has actually stopped reporting the number of deaths since July because the number of deaths in the armed force is so high and because reporting them would actually demoralize troops currently engaged in combat. I think that the death toll is much higher on both the government forces and the rebel forces.'

Opposition activists say dozens of people waiting for fuel were killed Wednesday when a government warplane attacked a gasoline station near Damascus.

The strike in the eastern suburb of Mleiha, an area partly under rebel control, ignited a huge fire that sent black smoke billowing into the air.

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