• Suicide bomber strikes, aid groups lament Syria crisis

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    DAMASCUS: A suicide bomber killed at least four people in a Christian area of the Syrian capital on Thursday (Friday in Manila) as aid groups said they cannot keep pace with the ever-growing suffering.

    State media said the “terrorist” bomber struck near a church of an order of the Maronite church, killing four people and wounding four others.

    “Terrorists” is the term the government in Damascus uses for rebels in Syria.

    Confirming the toll, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the Mariamite church.”

    It also reported shelling in nearby Al-Amin Street, also in old Damascus, but gave no more details.

    In a statement issued later, it said the bodies of 16 men who died under torture at the hands of Syria’s security forces had been handed to their families.

    It said the men had been from Harasta, one of a number of rebel strongholds near Damascus that have come under immense army pressure in recent weeks, as the regime has pressed a campaign to secure the capital.

    “It happens all too frequently that the bodies of detainees with torture marks are handed back to their families,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. “I fear for the lives of thousands of other detainees.”

    Elsewhere, regime forces stormed the town of Al-Qariatayn in the central province of Homs, state television said, and “restored peace and security.”

    The Observatory said troops in the town were detaining people.

    North of Homs city, the army intensified its bombardment of rebel-held Rastan and Talbisseh.

    The army also renewed its shelling of the town of Houla, scene of a massacre last year, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists.

    The Observatory reported the army has retaken parts of the Barzeh district in Damascus from rebels.

    The latest violence in a conflict the Observatory says has killed more than 100,000 people comes as relief groups say they are unable to keep pace with the rising misery.

    “There is a huge discrepancy between the ability to cope with the Syrian crisis and the escalating speed in which the demands in Syria are growing,” said Peter Maurer, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

    “And this gap still continues to widen as we speak,” he said in Geneva, decrying “incredible
    violence and incredible suffering, and quite extraordinary violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict in Syria.”

    AFP

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