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A car bomb went off in the Syrian capital of Damascus Thursday, exploding near the headquarters of the ruling Ba’ath party and the Russian embassy.
The explosion killed 53 people, according to state media. Revolutionary groups put the death toll at 59. Over 230 people were wounded by the explosion, many of them students, and 17 cars were destroyed.
The bomb was detonated at a government checkpoint in front of the Ba’ath Socialist Party office, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. The neighborhood was also home to the Russian embassy, as well as several ethnic groups, including Iraqis, Christians, and Druze.
It is unclear who is behind the blast at this time. Syrian officials said a second car was discovered, wired up to explode,but did not detonate, CBS News reported.
A second blast was also reported anonymously by a Syrian security official, who claimed a bomb had been detonated in the neighborhood of Barzeh.
The incident is merely the latest of many as the conflict between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and revolutionary groups begins to spread into Damascus. Earlier this week, rebel fighters had targeted other government buildings with mortar fire, with two shots landing near the army headquarters, causing no injuries.
On Wednesday, another round of shelling damaged a stadium in Damascus, killing a soccer player and injuring several others.
On Thursday, as well, opposition activists claimed that a government airstrike on a rebel field hospital in southern Daraa left 18 people dead, including eight rebel fights, three medics, a woman and a young girl.
The conflict, which has ravaged the nation of Syria since 2011 has largely avoided the capital of Damascus, as rebels focused on capturing other cities and towns. However, in recent months, the conflict has moved into the suburbs of the city.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his message to Assad is that “it is time to go.”
He called on Assad to respond to an offer for dialogue made by Syrian opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib.
The United Nations and the Arab League announced on Thursday that they will be extending their mission to Syria through the end of the year. They confirmed that the contract for Lakhdar Brahimi, their envoy, has been renewed through the rest of 2013. It had been set to expire Friday.