- Associated Press - Friday, November 23, 2012

BEIRUT — A bomb blast in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus killed four people and seriously wounded a member of a faction that has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s bitter civil war, activists said Friday.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, lashed out at neighboring Turkey, which has sheltered anti-Assad fighters.

The ministry denounced Turkey’s request for NATO Patriot surface-to-air missiles along its border with Syria as “a new provocative step.” Turkey made the request earlier this week to bolster its defenses and prevent a spillover of the Syrian civil war onto its territory.

The Damascus explosion late Thursday in the Yarmouk camp targeted the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, the Palestinian group said.

Four people died and a PFLP-GC activist was seriously wounded when the bomb planted under his car went off, the group said, blaming the rebel Free Syrian Army for the attack.

Yarmouk has been pulled into Syria’s fighting before, most recently earlier this month when clashes in and around the camp killed and wounded dozens.

The refugee camp is near two southern neighborhoods of the capital — Tadamon and Hajar Aswad — where rebels and government troops have clashed for weeks.

Regime forces shelled the two neighborhoods on Friday and also raided the central Damascus neighborhood of Bab Sreijeh, arresting several people there, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

State-run TV reported that a suicide attacker blew up his car in the northwestern Idlib province Friday, killing at least three people and wounding four. There were no other details.

Also Friday, visiting Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani held talks with Assad and other officials in Damascus on his way to neighboring Lebanon.

Iran is Assad’s strongest ally in the region, and anti-government activists accuse Tehran of sending both weapons and fighters to Syria. Larijani reiterated Iran’s support to the Syrian leadership as it fights against Western “plots being hatched” against Syria and the region, according to state-run news agency SANA.

Before meeting with Assad, Larijani met with leaders of Syria-based Palestinian factions, including the PFLP-GC, and discussed the latest Israeli-Hamas spasm of violence in Gaza that ended with an Egyptian-brokered truce on Wednesday. He pledged more Iranian assistance to Palestinians there, said Khaled Abdul-Majid, a Damascus-based Palestinian official who attended the meeting.

Speaking in Lebanon a few hours later, Larijani congratulated the Palestinian people for their “victory” in Gaza which he described as a “tsunami” against Israel.

“It has become clear that the strength and capabilities of the Palestinian resistance is here to stay,” he said.

In other violence around Syria, Islamic extremists, including members of the al-Qaida inspired Jabhat al-Nusra group, battled Friday with pro-government Kurdish gunmen in the northern town of Ras al-Ayan, near the border with Turkey. The Islamic militants entered the town earlier this month and have since clashed almost daily with the Kurdish gunmen.

Story Continues →