The Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for a big explosion that they say was targeting a meeting of high-ranking government officials on Wednesday morning. The bomb, which was reportedly planted inside a fuel tanker, was set off near the hotel used by United Nations observers. Syrian state TV said there were three people wounded, but there were no immediate reports of any deaths, despite the apparent size of the blast, which caused large fires and sent smoke pouring into the sky above the city. The FSA claimed that there were at least 150 top officers attending a security meeting near the blast site, but there is no way to know if any of them might have been killed or injured. The explosion seemed to be centered on a large parking lot, though it did damage some nearby buildings.
Whatever the number of casualties turns out to be, the explosion is another sign of the vulnerability of the Syrian security apparatus. After a blast last month that killed several top members of Bashar al-Assad's regime, and the increasing number of attacks within the heart of Damascus, it appears that there is no place that is truly safe for government officials anymore. The former prime minister of Syria, who defected to Jordan, said yesterday that Assad controls less than 30 percent of his country and that "the regime is collapsing, morally, materially and economically."
In other Syrian news, U.S. intelligence sources have backed up rebel claims that several Iranian men who they kidnapped earlier this month were indeed members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and not religious pilgrims as the Iranian government has claimed. The rebels accused the group of entering the country secretly to support Assad's fighters, but the Iranians have insisted they are not soldiers and should be released. As the situation in Syria deteriorates, the influence of outside forces only grows.
There are also reports of a "kidnapping war" of sorts brewing between Syria and Lebanon. The family of a Lebanese man kidnapped withing Syria has retaliated by kidnapping several FSA members in Lebanon. (We're not sure how many regular Lebanese families have their own "military wing" however.) Many FSA fighters had traveled to the neighboring country to escape fighting or get treatments for injuries and some may have been kidnapped from hospitals in Beirut or other cities. The rebels have accused the man they seized of being a member of Hezbollah who had traveled to Syria to fight on behalf of the regime.