A car bomb on Tuesday rocked central Damascus, a day after nearly 60 people were killed across Syria despite a hard-won ceasefire and the coming deployment of 300 U.N. peace monitors.
Three people were wounded when the blast went off in the Marjeh district of the capital, Syrian state television reported, blaming “terrorists”, the government term for rebels.
The blast came as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said violence across the country killed 54 civilians and five soldiers on Monday, despite the tenuous ceasefire.
Thirty-one of the civilians died in a government assault on the Arbaeen neighbourhood in the central city of Hama and 13 others, including women and children, died in a mine blast in the village of Jarjanaz, in north-western Idlib province.
Video footage posted online by activists showed a street in Arbaeen with large pools of blood and women weeping. Two young girls were shown in one video crying and holding up the picture of a man. “This is my father,” cries one girl.
The violence occurred despite the April 12 ceasefire, and the presence of an advance team of U.N. monitors to implement the truce.
The persistent bloodshed 12 days into the ceasefire has sparked growing criticism from opposition activists of the fledgling U.N. mission, which now numbers just 11 observers out of a planned initial deployment of 30.
Neeraj Singh, a spokesman for the advance team, said the observers would be visiting different unspecified locations on Tuesday. The monitors have toured several protest hubs since their arrival in the country earlier this month, including the battered city of Homs, where two of them set up base at the weekend. During their visits, they have been greeted by thousands of protesters demanding the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the arming of the rebel Free Syrian Army.
Despite scepticism over the U.N. mission, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday gave the go-ahead for the deployment of 300 ceasefire monitors from next week.
Russia, a staunch ally of the Damascus regime, warned both sides to the conflict against disrupting the work of the U.N. observers which it said was crucial to providing an unbiased picture on the ground.