Blast Near Damascus Kills 18, While Key Airport Reportedly Falls to Rebels

Over 50 wounded in car bomb outside capital; Syrian rebels, led by a group affiliated with al-Qaida, takes full control of the military's Minnigh airport near the border with Turkey.

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At least 18 people were killed late Tuesday when a booby-trapped car exploded in a heavily populated pro-Assad regime area outside Damascus, state media reported. Meanwhile, pro-opposition activists said a key military airport had fallen in the north.

Fifty-six people were wounded in the bombing in Jaramana, a Christian-Druze area on the south-eastern outskirts of Syria's capital, the official SANA news agency and state television said.

The blast caused heavy damage and set dozens of cars ablaze, opposition-linked activists in the region said.

The same square was the target of a similar blast July 25, which killed 10 people and wounded 66.

In the province of Aleppo, Syrian rebels, led by a group affiliated with al-Qaida, took full control of the military's Minnigh airport near the border with Turkey, a pro-opposition watchdog said. The airport is a strategic base for the Syrian Army to launch airstrikes on rebel-held areas in the northern province of Aleppo.

The al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant as well as other rebel brigades seized the airport, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At least 10 rebels and an unknown number of regime soldiers were killed in about 24 hours of fighting, the watchdog said. SANA denied the report. It said government troops were in control of the airport and "armed terrorist groups are receiving very severe losses" in and around the airport.

In other developments in the more than two-year Syrian civil war, rebels made advances in coastal areas in Lattakia province, a stronghold of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, said Abu Ahmad Ladkani, an opposition activist based in the province.

The advances prompted many Alawite residents to flee for fear of reprisals by the mainly Sunni rebels, he said.

In Geneva, the UN refugee agency said the children who have fled the violence in Syria since 2011 are being inadequately protected as many face child labour, sexual attacks or underage marriage while others return home to fight.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees highlighted the problem in a recent self-evaluation report on its response to the Syrian crisis.

"The report notes that more measures could be taken to pull these children out of these vulnerabilities," spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said of the nearly 950,000 children who have had to flee.

The report also said crime at Zaatri, Jordan's main Syrian refugee camp, had risen to such levels that refugees said they want to escape.

Meanwhile, a military source told SANA that the army had "restored security and stability" Tuesday afternoon to small towns near Assad's hometown of Qaradaha in Lattakia.

He was quoted as saying government troops killed large numbers of terrorists, the majority of whom were not Syrian. SANA said two leaders of the extremist al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - Abu Khattab al-Iraqi and Abu Omar al-Liby - were among those killed.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria's 28-month war, according to the United Nations.

Wreckage after a car bomb exploded in the Jaramana district of Damascus, August 6, 2013.Credit: Reuteres

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