Bombs hit Syrian capital Damascus, Aleppo

Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, is greeted by Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani at Wajbah Palace in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, June 23, 2013. In Qatar Kerry spent time discussing Syria and Afghanistan. The meeting is the last event in Qatar before Kerry heads to India. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Syrian rebels assaulted a police station in the heart of Damascus on Sunday shortly after a powerful explosion went off in the same neighborhood, activists said. At least ten died in the violence in the Syrian capital.

Meanwhile, a car bomb in the northern city of Aleppo killed 12 government soldiers, the activists said.

The attacks come as Syrian government forces press an offensive in the outskirts of the capital, and an 11-nation group that includes the U.S. meets in the Qatari capital of Doha to coordinate military aid and other forms of assistance to the rebels.

The explosion in the capital went off behind a bakery in the Ruken al-Deen neighborhood, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It reported 10 wounded and said there was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Syrian news agency SANA confirmed the blast and said there were casualties but did not give a number.

Later, three rebels attacked Ruken al-Deen's police station, the Observatory said. The attack left the three rebels and four policemen dead and nine others wounded.

Meanwhile, the Observatory said rockets fell in the Damascus suburb Jarmana and the Abbasid district in the heart of the capital. It said there was material damage and unspecified number of injuries.

The Syrian army has been moving against rebels in districts outside Damascus that are used as launching pads to attack the capital, President Bashar Assad's seat of power. Troop movements and heavy shelling Saturday appeared to be an attempt to cut links between rebel-held districts there.

Elsewhere, the Observatory said 12 soldiers loyal to Assad were killed in a car explosion in the suburbs of the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital.

It provided no other details, but both the government and the opposition have recently declared offensives in Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the group dubbed the Friends of Syria have been meeting in Qatar. Late Saturday, the donors agreed to do more to help the embattled rebels, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. While he offered no specifics, Kerry said the assistance would help change the balance on the battlefield.

Kerry also denounced Assad for inviting Iranian and Hezbollah fighters to fight alongside his troops, saying the Syrian president risked turning the civil war into a regional sectarian conflict.

Syria's al-Thawra newspaper, the mouthpiece of the government, assailed the Friends of Syria meeting for providing aid to the rebels.

"It's clear that the enemies of Syria are rushing to arm the terrorists to kill the chances for holding the Geneva conference," the newspaper said, referring to a gathering planned to bring Assad's government to negotiate an end to the crisis with the fighting rebels.

It pledged that the Syrian army would "continue the showdown to eliminate terrorism and restore security and stability."

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Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

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