A bomb exploded behind a hotel hosting the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) headquarters in the heart of Damascus on Wednesday morning.
Juliette Toumah who works with the United Nations in Syria confirmed the explosion to the Daily News Egypt but said, “none of the United Nations staff working in Damascus were hurt.”
“There is no indication whatsoever that the UN was a target,” said Jens Laerke with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) told AFP that the rebel group was behind the attack, which exploded an oil tanker near the hotel. Maher Nuwaimi, a FSA officer in Syria, reportedly said the target was a meeting of army officers and the plainclothed militiamen called shabiha.
The Dama Rose Hotel, headquarters of UNSMIS, is located across the street from both the opera house and the national museum, just down the street from Bashar Al-Assad’s presidential palace.
The blast comes one day after the arrival of the UN’s Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos. She traveled to Syria for a three-day trip “to review the situation on the ground and discuss ways to scale up the humanitarian response.”
Amos is not staying at the same hotel as UNSMIS, but told Laerke that during a meeting her and her team heard two large blasts come from the direction of the UNSMIS residency. “It is extremely worrying,” said Amos, “but no one was hurt in any way.”
Earlier Amos released a statement on Tuesday after meeting with displaced people in Damascus, saying “the people I met today told me they need clean water, sanitation, medical help and food. They are frightened. Many have no home to return to and they desperately need more help and support.”
The FSA’s Facebook page Wednesday reported firefights with the army in Mezzeh district, also near the presidential palace, on the other side of Damascus University from where the bombing took place.
Meanwhile, intense battles continue in the country’s northwest. State news agency SANA reported the Syrian military destroyed 20 cars equipped with machineguns and their drivers as the vehicles tried to enter Aleppo. For its part, the FSA claimed to have destroyed tanks in neighboring Iblid Governate. FSA member-faction The Free Northern Syria rebels also said they have forced the military out of Sarmada, a town in Iblid near the border with Turkey and less than 50 kilometers from Aleppo. Videos were released of an empty town square in Sarmada, as militants celebrated atop a burnt-out tank.