Rebels killed at least 10 people in a bomb blast at a police station in the heart of Old Damascus’ Christian Quarter Sunday.
“A bomb or a car bomb exploded in Bab Tuma Square in front of the police station," an official told AFP, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog group said the explosion was caused by a car bomb.
This was the first attack in Bab Tuma, one of the oldest quarters of the capital.
The Christian hierarchy and a large part of the faithful back Bashar al-Assad, fearful of the influence of Islamists in the rebellion to overthrow the Syrian president.
Bab Tuma is a popular site for shoppers, and most of its residents are Christians. It is not known if the dead were policemen or Christian residents.
Several ambulances were seen at rushing to and from the site of the blast.
The explosion rocked the Old City at almost the same time that President Bashar al-Assad was receiving the UN Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, in another area of the capital.
Brahimi also represents the Arab League. He has been trying to convince opposition forces and loyalists to Assad to declare a four-day truce for the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begins Friday.
All previous efforts for a ceasefire have failed, and Assad has used negotiations and ceasefire announcements to escalate his do-or-die battle to stay in power as the civilian death toll surges past 30,000 in the 18-month-old uprising.