Beirut: Syrian rebels bombed the house of a top member of the country’s ruling Baath party in the south yesterday, killing him and his three body guards, activists said.
The bombing took place in Daraa, where the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Since then, rebels have targeted regime figures and military commanders in the capital, Damascus, and in other places around the country.
Early yesterday, rebels detonated a car bomb near the house of Hussein Rifai in Daraa, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, killing Rifai and his bodyguards. The Observatory relies on reports from activists on the ground.
Syria state-run Sana news agency reported the bombing in Daraa. It said there were casualties in the blast, but did not say if Rafai was among those killed.
The bombing in Daraa came a day after twin suicide car bombs ripped through a Damascus suburb minutes apart, killing at least 34 people and wounding more than 80 others.
The United States yesterday blamed the beleaguered Syrian regime for cutting off Internet and telecommunications links in the war-torn country, branding the move a sign of desperation.
US web-monitoring companies and Syrian rights watchdogs reported an almost complete loss of Internet connections, as well as widespread disruption to telephone networks in Syria, amid a regime offensive against rebel forces. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington had received reports from opposition sources on the ground that cell networks, landlines and Internet links had been cut across the country.
“Obviously, we condemn this latest assault on the Syrian people’s ability to express themselves and communicate with each other and it just, again, speaks to the kind of desperation of the regime as it tries to cling to power,” she said.
Meanwhile, the UN special envoy said yesterday, in a strong hint that Assad will have to step down before a civil war can end.
“The old Syria ruled by President Bashar Al Assad’s family is finished and the “new Syria” will never be the same, UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said while speaking to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council. However, when asked whether a peace plan being considered by diplomats would require regime change, the envoy said: “I think it’s very, very, very clear that the people of Syria want change, and real change, not cosmetic changes.”
“The new Syria will not look like the Syria of today,” he said. In an apparent reference to the chaotic wartime collapses of the long-entrenched regimes in Libya and Iraq, Brahimi stressed the importance of not allowing state institutions to “wither away.”