BEIRUT (AP) — Two powerful bombs exploded near a military compound in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib on Monday, killing at least eight people, and causing heavy damage, Syrian state media and opposition activists said.
One activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, put the death toll at more than 20, but the figure could not be confirmed.
Syria's pro-government al-Ekhbariya TV aired footage of the aftermath, showing torn flesh, smashed cars, twisted debris and blood stains on the pavement at the sites. The force of the explosions shattered windows in the area and sent debris flying for hundreds of meters (yards).
Pro-government websites said dozens of people were wounded in the blasts and five buildings damaged.
A local opposition activist in Idlib said Monday's explosions went off about five minutes apart just after daybreak. One of the blasts detonated about 200 meters (200 yards) from a hotel where a pair of U.N. truce monitors has been staying, said the activist, who only gave his first name, Ibrahim, for fear of reprisals.
A pro-government website said the hotel was damaged in the explosion.
Earlier Monday, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades at the central bank and a police patrol in the capital of Damascus, wounding four officers and causing light damage to the bank, the state-run SANA news agency said.
Syria blamed the bombings and shootings on "armed terrorists," a term it uses to describe those trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad. A largely peaceful uprising against Assad erupted more than 13 months ago but has transformed into an armed insurgency in the face of a brutal regime crackdown.
A U.N.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect April 12 has failed so far to bring an end to the violence, being widely ignored by both regime forces and rebels.
A Norwegian general took command Sunday of a U.N. observer team that has been sent to monitor the cease-fire. After arriving in Damascus, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood appealed to both sides to halt the fighting. Sixteen observers are on the ground now, but the team is to grow to 300.
U.N. officials have singled out the regime as the main aggressor, noting that it continues to target opposition strongholds and has failed to withdraw tanks and troops from population centers. However, rebel fighters have also kept up attacks on Syrian troops.
Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed reporting.