A powerful explosion shook the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday, residents reported, and state television said it struck the eastern district of Qaboun.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the blast was caused by a car bomb, and that five members of Syria's security forces were killed in the incident. They also said the blast was followed by heavy clashes between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The force of the explosion in the Qaboun neighbourhood shook the Syrian capital at around 9 P.M., residents said.

Both state television and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has monitored the violence in Syria since the uprising against Assad erupted nearly two years ago, said the blast was caused by a car bomb.

According to state television, many people were wounded in the blast.

The Observatory said rebels were clashing with security forces and that mortars had been fired in the area.

The blast came after a series of car bombs in central Damascus last week, the most serious of which killed at least 60 people, according to activists. 

Across Syria, 96 people were killed on Monday according to human rights organizations, before the car bomb explosion was reported. 

Earlier Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said the Syrian government is ready to hold talks with the armed opposition seeking to topple Assad's regime.

Al-Moallem, who was in Moscow to discuss Syria's civil war with Russian officials, did not say whether the rebels would first have to lay down their arms before Damascus would agree to sit with them at the negotiating table.

Still, the offer marked the first time that a high-ranking Syrian official has stated publicly that the government would meet with opposition fighters.

"We're ready for a dialogue with anyone who's willing for it," al-Moallem said. "Even with those who carry arms. We are confident that reforms will come about not with the help of bloodshed but through dialogue."

Syria's 23-month-old conflict, has killed more than 70,000 people and destroyed many of the country's cities.