DAMASCUS: A car bomb exploded in a neighborhood in Syria’s capital Tuesday, the government and activists said, killing at least three people.
The state-run SANA news agency said the blast killed three in the contested district of Tadamon, which has seen months of fighting between the military and rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad. It said 11 were wounded.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least seven people were killed and 15 were wounded. The difference in the death tolls could not immediately be reconciled.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, which comes amid raging battles between troops and rebels in several parts of the country. Extremist factions among the rebels have in the past carried out suicide and car bombings.
Tadamon is an impoverished neighborhood in southern Damascus. The area has changed hands several times between rebels and the regime and has witnessed heavy fighting. It was not clear what the bombing had targeted.
To the north of the capital, nearly 40 nuns and orphans are trapped inside a convent in the town of Maaloula, where regime troops are battling rebel forces, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate said Tuesday.
The famed Christian town, where residents speak Aramaic, has been the scene of ongoing clashes since earlier this month.
“The Mar Takla convent is living through painful days because it is in the middle of the zone where fire is being exchanged, which makes getting supplies difficult and dangerous,” the Damascus-based Patriarchate said in a statement.
“The generator has gone out because of the fighting, halting the supply of water to the convent and threatening the lives of those inside,” the statement said.
It issued an “urgent appeal” to humanitarian groups to “ensure the necessary supplies to residents of the convent, nuns and orphans who number close to 40 people.”
The convent is located halfway between the hills of Maaloula, which are still under rebel control, and the town center, which was retaken by the army.
Syrian opposition forces, including jihadist fighters, took control of Maaloula on Sept. 9.
Three days later, the Syrian army entered the town, seizing back parts, but failing to secure it entirely.
Picturesque Maaloula, nestled under a large cliff, is considered a symbol of the Christian presence in Syria.
Since the fighting began in the town, most of its 5,000 residents have fled to neighboring villages or to Damascus.
More than 110,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, which began with largely peaceful protests against Assad’s regime in March 2011. Since then, the conflict has turned into an insurgency and civil war that has also uprooted millions of people from their homes.