(MENAFN - Arab News) At least 61 people, most of them civilians, were killed nationwide yesterday, according to an initial toll by the Observatory, which obtains its information from activists, doctors and other sources on the ground.
In another grisly find of the almost 18-month conflict, residents recovered 45 bodies in two towns on the outskirts of Damascus, the group said. It said at least 23 bodies, including those of women and children, were found in the eastern suburb of Zamalka on Thursday, while another 22 were discovered in Qatana southeast of the capital.
Opposition activists blamed pro-government forces for the Zamalka killings, accusing President Bashar Assad's regime of a "new massacre."
On Friday, the bodies of 16 men were found in Harasta, also in Damascus province, some bearing signs of torture, the Observatory said.
The conflict in Syria has claimed a total of more than 26,000 lives since it erupted in mid-March 2011, according to Observatory figures.
Five soldiers were killed as a motorcycle bomb struck the Syrian capital yesterday, state media reported, as witnesses and monitors said troops shelled the southern outskirts and stormed a nearby rebel town.
The bomb struck as worshippers left a mosque after Friday prayers in the northern neighborhood of Rokn Eddin, state television said.
"The terrorist attack killed five members of the security forces and injured several others."
In a second attack, a car bomb caused damage near the courthouse in downtown Damascus, the television said, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said another blast struck the Salhiyeh district, also without reporting casualties. Witnesses said the suburb of Tadamun and neighboring Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk came under heavy shellfire.
Despite the violence, anti-regime protests after Muslim weekly prayers were held in several neighborhoods across the capital, according to the Observatory, a Britain-based monitoring group.
On the southeast outskirts of Damascus, hundreds of government troops backed by armor stormed the town of Babila, where Free Syrian Army rebels were entrenched, it added.
A raid by security forces on Al-Qazzaz district of southeast Damascus, in which troops rounded up dozens of suspected militants, sparked clashes with rebels, the Observatory said.
In Syria's commercial capital Aleppo in the north, one rebel was killed in clashes with the army in the embattled Salaheddin district, and fighting was also reported in nearby Izaa, the Observatory said.
It also reported heavy shelling of rebel-held areas in the Salaheddin, Izaa and Tarik Al-Bab districts. Elsewhere, two children were killed when Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border was shelled, and two rebels were killed by mortar fire in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, the Observatory said.
In Idlib province of northwest Syria, scores of homes were destroyed by shelling, while in the central province of Homs, a child was killed in an air strike on rebel-held Rastan and three civilians died in Talbisseh town, it said.
Meanwhile, Canada closed its Iranian Embassy and vowed to expel Iranian diplomats yesterday, expressing concern for the mission's safety and slamming Iran's support for the Syrian regime and its threats against Israel.
"Canada's position on the regime in Iran is well known. Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said.
"Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended. All Canadian diplomatic staff have left Iran, and Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been instructed to leave within five days," he said, in a statement. Baird also attacked Tehran's failure to account for its nuclear program and accused the "Iranian regime" of promoting international terrorism.