Syrian prime minister sacked as rebels bomb Damascus TV building
Several employees wounded as conflict escalates in the capital; officials blame Israel, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for attack.
A bomb ripped through the third floor of the state TV building in Damascus on Monday, shattering several offices and wounding at least three employees, Syrian TV said.
The explosion was the latest in the Syrian capital, which has seen a string of suicide attacks and other bombings in the past few months as the country's civil war has escalated and the rebels grow bolder in their tactics. The TV building, which also houses state-run radio, is located at the Umawiyyeen roundabout in central Damascus.
Also on Monday, Syria's Prime Minister Riyad Hijab was sacked, as government
forces appeared to prepare a ground assault to clear battered rebels from Aleppo, the country's biggest city
President Assad appointed Riyad Hijab, a former agriculture minister, as prime minister only in June following a parliamentary election which authorities said was a step towards political reform but which opponents dismissed as a sham.
After Monday's blast, the TV remained on air despite what was another severe breach of a state institution and a heavily guarded area in the Syrian capital.
A bomb that exploded in the state security headquarters in Damascus on July 18 killed four of Syria's top security leaders.
A pro-government private Syrian TV station, Al-Ikhbariya, broadcast images of the damage at the state TV building. The footage showed destroyed walls, overturned desks, blown-out cabinet doors, broken glass and dangling electricity cables. A few TV workers were shown tending to a wounded colleague.
Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the bomb blast caused heavy material damage and light injuries among the employees. He blamed Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel for the attack. Syrian authorities accuse the Gulf countries and Israel of supporting the rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad's troops and fueling the insurgency in Syria.
"Nothing can silence the voice of Syria or the voice of the Syrian people, " al-Zoubi said while inspecting the damage at the TV building. "We have a thousand locations to broadcast from."
Syria's rebels have grown increasingly confident in recent months. In July, the rebels and Syrian regime forces fought intense battles for a week in Damascus in what was the opposition fighters' biggest challenge so far in the capital.
The government claimed Saturday it was now in full control of all districts in the capital, after purging one of the last rebel-held areas, but clashes have continued in some districts of Damascus.
On Saturday, gunmen snatched 48 Iranians just outside Damascus in a brazen attack. Iran said those abducted were pilgrims who were travelling on a bus taking them from the suburb of Sayeda Zeinab, about 16 kilometers south of Damascus, to the airport to return home when they were kidnapped.
But the Iranians' captors claimed in a video broadcast on Al-Arabiya TV station Sunday that one of the captives was an officer of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards and that the 48 were on a "reconnaissance mission" in the capital.
Mainly Shiite Iran is a close ally of the beleaguered Syrian government, which is dominated by the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.