Syrian activists have called for mass anti-regime demonstrations in Damascus after at least 55 people were killed and nearly 400 hundred wounded by twin suicide attacks.
The US embassy in Beirut called the double bombing, the deadliest attacks in the capital since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began 14 months, "reprehensive and unacceptable".
"Residents of Damascus, rise up, liberate your city from this regime of killers," said the The Syrian Revolution 2011 activist group on Facebook.
"The one that destroyed Homs and its residents with tanks and shells will not hesitate to destroy Damascus and to kill its residents with explosions," the message added.
Rebel neighbourhoods of the central city of Homs came under relentless shelling by regime forces in March that left widespread destruction and hundreds dead, according to rights groups.
"The regime will not hesitate to kill all its people to attain its objective ... what are you waiting for!" added the message posted after at least 55 people were killed and nearly 400 were wounded in the deadliest bombings of Syria's 14-month uprising.
The explosions shortly before 8am on Thursday morning took place near a busy junction as children were on their way to school and employees on their way to work, the reports said.
Within minutes, gruesome pictures and video were posted online showing body parts in the streets and a mangled wreckage of cars on fire, their drivers still inside. One showed a woman’s burned hand still wearing gold bracelets clutching a steering wheel.
Residents told Reuters that the building, whose front wall was knocked away, belonged to the Palestine Military Intelligence, which despite its name is one of many state security agencies working on internal control. Most of the dead though were thought to be civilians.
Even more damage was done to what seemed to be civilian buildings in the area, whose facades were ripped clean off by the force of the blasts. A large crater was left in the road, while a lorry had come toppling over on its side.
Members of the United Nations peace monitory mission, whose head Major-General Robert Mood narrowly missed a roadside bomb while visiting Dera’a in the south on Wednesday, visited the scene shortly afterwards.
After that attack, he was careful not to ascribe responsibility. The regime attributes all such attacks to the “terrorists” it says are responsible for the uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, and which officials say comprise a mixture of Al-Qaeda jihadists, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and drug-dealers and other criminals.
The opposition, including the leadership of the Free Syrian Army, says the rebels are not using bombings and terror in their campaign, though they are targeting soldiers and other members of the regime apparatus with sniper and rocket-propelled grenades, including targeted assassinations.
are a deliberate ploy to link genuine resistance to the regime with international terror. They point to frequent inconsistencies in reports of the bombings and the immediate presence of state media on the scene to record them.
The last bomb attack, in the nearby suburb of Midan two weeks ago, killed six police and three civilians as worshippers were coming out of a nearby mosque that had seen a number of protests, but residents told The Daily Telegraph that at least two of the civilians had been killed by gunfire.
The bombings will put further pressure on western and regional critics of the Assad regime to change their tactics away from support for the UN-backed Kofi Annan peace plan. But with ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, the leading figure in favour of intervention in the Arab Spring, gone from the scene, President Barack Obama facing a long re-election campaign and Britain’s government facing its own internal battles, the prospect of international action seems to be receding.
Shortly before the bombings, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, told the General Assembly that there was an “alarming upsurge” in roadside attacks and that he feared a full-scale civil war with catastrophic effects.
“We have a brief window to stop the violence, a brief opportunity to create an opening for political engagement between the government and those seeking change,” he said.