A car bomb went off in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday, killing 13 people and injuring scores more on the same day as the UN envoy tasked with bringing peace to the country sat down for talks with President Bashar al-Assad.
The blast also wounded 29 people in the popular Damascus district of Bab Touma, reports The Seattle Times. The blast was overshadowed, however, by continued unrest in Lebanon after a bomb there killed a top Lebanese intelligence official.
Hundreds of protesters Beirut blamed Syria for the assassination on Friday, and accused the Lebanese government of being too close to the Assad regime.
Two government officials spoke from the site of the blast in Damascus on Sunday, saying that a taxi exploded about 50 yards from the main police station in the Old City neighborhood of Bab Touma.
Mohamma Hanbali, 27, who is a vegetable vendor near the site of the blast, stated that several wounded people were laying in the street when he rushed to help them. Hanbali, who was hit in the leg by a piece of shrapnel, stated, “It’s a cowardly act, carried out by terrorists.
NPR notes that Lakdar Brahimi, the UN peace envoy to Syria, was meeting with President Assad in another part of the city when the bombing took place.
Brahimi represents both the UN and the Arab League, and is attempting to push for a cease-fire between rebels and government forces, who have been battling each other for 19 months.
Brahimi spoke with reporters following talks with Syrian opposition groups on Sunday, saying that he has received “promises,” but no “commitment” from them to honor a cease-fire. He added, “There is a promise to stop fighting.” The UN emissary refused to say what Assad’s response to the plan was.
Lakdar Brahimi stated that he plans to return to Syria again soon, stating:
“We are hopeful that the Eid in Syria will be calm if not happy. The Syrian people expect more than a truce for a few days and it is their right, but all we can promise is that we will work hard to achieve their aspirations.”
The cease-fire agreement is not the first in Syria. The last one, which was brokered by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, was promptly broken by both sides.