Bomb Blasts Hit Syria As UN Expands Mission

7:02pm UK, Monday April 30, 2012

Tim Marshall, in Damascus

Two suicide bombs have killed at least nine people and wounded 100 in the Syrian city of Idlib as the UN continues to step up its monitoring mission across the country.

State television said the blasts occurred on Monday morning in two separate areas of the town, near the Turkish border, and blamed the attacks on "terrorists".

The British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said more than 20 people had been killed in the explosions, which they said had targeted security forces.

Major General Robert Mood in Damascus

Monitoring chief Major General Robert Mood in Damascus

Meanwhile, UN mission head Major General Robert Mood has arrived in Damascus and has called on President Bashar Assad and the country's opposition to stop fighting.

He is taking charge of an advance team of 16 UN monitors who are trying to salvage an international peace plan, with observer levels set to rise to 300 in total.

But clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups are becoming more frequent, with further violence in Damascus.

Sky News visited the capital's largest military hospital just 15 minutes outside the city centre. It was filled with injured troops. Three soldiers we saw had only been brought in a few hours earlier.

The bus they were travelling in near Damascus had been ambushed and raked with gunfire.

Syrian protesters

Syrian protesters at an anti-regime demonstration in Atareb

In a courtyard at the back of the building, relatives of dead soldiers gathered for military funerals.

Some of the dead were victims of a bomb blast in Damascus that killed 10 people and injured dozens on Friday.

But there were others from different incidents, among them 22-year-old Mahmoud Khalil Azzadin. 

He was killed in Douma, a suburb of the capital that has seen fierce fighting between the Syrian army and anti-government forces.

We were told Mahmoud joined the army after his two brothers were killed for refusing to join protests against the regime but there is no way of verifying the claim.

His father preferred not to speak to us on camera, saying he feared reprisals.

Inside Syria

The director of the hospital told Sky News that 10 to 15 dead soldiers were arriving every day and the same number were being treated for injuries sustained in the fighting.

These figures only include incidents in the capital and southern Syria.

The government says 2,600 security personnel have died since the uprising began over a year ago. It is likely the figure will rise in the coming weeks as violence intensifies.

Inside the military hospital, families queued for information about injured soldiers.

We spoke to Abu Ala'a, an army general who had his left leg amputated after a bomb blast hit his military vehicle in the countryside near the capital.

He has no doubt who is responsible for the attack, telling us that "armed terrorist gangs" scouted his location for days before carrying out the bombing.

He also blames Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for supporting opposition groups. It is a sentiment you will hear often from government supporters.

There will be many more injured and dead arriving at the hospital.

The only way to reduce the rate will be if the UN can accelerate the number of monitors arriving to try and create something approaching a ceasefire.

There are going to be so many more of these, and their equivalents on the other side. The only hope is that the UN monitors can stand between them.

It looks distant.