May 21, 2013
Schools, homes and public parks on front line of Damascus war
Syria's civil war has burst into central Damascus and its indiscriminate violence has put civilians in the firing line.
Yesterday's powerful bomb which killed more than 60 people in the capital's Mazraa district may have targeted President Bashar al-Assad's ruling Baath Party or the embassy of his ally Russia.
But many of the victims were ordinary Damascenes in the wrong place at the wrong time - including children packed into an elementary school directly behind the Baath Party offices.
"It's in horrendous shape, it's a war zone," said the mother of a girl who attends Abdullah ibn al Zubair school, describing shattered windows and iron bars hanging from broken concrete.
Her daughter, wounded by shrapnel, may lose an eye and several of her schoolmates were killed, she said.
State media, which said 20 children died at the school, sought to whip up fury against rebels battling to overthrow Assad, repeatedly broadcasting gruesome footage of charred corpses, burning cars and angry condemnation of the attacks.
But on a day when activists say 90 people were killed in car bombings across Damascus, there was no need to manufacture rage.
Residents in the center of the city, long isolated from a conflict which has killed 70,000 people in the last two years, fear that the violence which has devastated Homs, Aleppo and the outer districts of their own capital, is knocking at their door.
"OK fine, so the rebels want to make a point that they've arrived here in Damascus... How does that help their cause?" said a man in his 40s who is no supporter of Assad. "It's us civilians who are getting hurt. We're paying the price."
An elderly woman vented her anger on both sides. "They've gone crazy, all of them...I don't care what they want or who they think they're fighting, they're aiming their wrath at us. Damn them all," she said.
No one has claimed responsibility for Thursday's attacks but the al Qaeda-linked rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra says it carried out several devastating bombings in Damascus and Aleppo over the last year, as well as 17 smaller attacks around the capital in the first half of February alone.