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 al-Assad in the country's bitter civil war, activists said Friday.
The explosion late Thursday in the Yarmouk camp targeted the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.
Four people died and a PFLP-GC activist was seriously wounded when the bomb planted under his car went off, the group said. It blamed 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 also close to two southern neighborhoods of the capital — Tadamon and Hajar Aswad — that have seen weeks-long clashes between rebels and government troops.
Regime forces shelled the two neighborhoods on Friday and also raided the central Damascus neighborhood of Bab Sreijeh, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Activists said several people were arrested.
In other violence around the country, 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 Islamist militants entered the town earlier this month and have since clashed almost daily with the Kurdish gunmen.
The Islamic militants and the Kurdish factions have also added to the complexity of Syria's conflict.
When government forces withdrew from Kurdish areas in northeastern Syria in July, they were quickly replaced by Kurdish fighters from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD. The Kurds would battle the rebels when they attacked predominantly Kurdish areas in Syria. The Kurdish group is affiliated with the PKK, rebels fighting for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast region of Turkey. For its part, Ankara has sheltered and backed Syria's opposition.
As for the Islamic militants, they are fighting on the side of the rebels and have played a bigger role in the Syrian conflict in recent months, with many openly saying they want to set up an Islamic state. The opposition is split, with some groups strongly opposed to extremism.
Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with an uprising against Assad's regime, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts, but quickly morphed into a civil war that has since killed more than 40,000 people, according to activists.
When the unrest began, the country's half-million Palestinians struggled to stay on the sidelines. But in recent months, many have started supporting the uprising although they insisted the opposition to the regime should be peaceful. Earlier this month, the FPLP-GC clashed with anti-government Palestinian gunmen in Yarmouk.
The Observatory reported that the body of Syrian novelist Mohammed Rashid Roweily was found late Thursday in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, nearly two months after he was kidnapped. State-TV said Roweily was "liquidated by terrorists."
Ruwiely, 65, was once the representative of Arab Writers' Union in Deir el-Zour, and had written several novels. The Observatory said his decomposed body was found along with four other bodies, including that of a retired army officer. All were kidnapped around the same time.
Syrian authorities deny there is an uprising in the country and say the rebels are "terrorists" backed by foreign powers that seek to destroy the country.
Journalist Bassil Toufic Youssef, who worked for state TV, was shot dead outside his house in the capital on Thursday, said the state SANA news agency.
In other developments, Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani was in Damascus where he held talks Friday with Assad and other officials before flying on 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.
Qatar, which has backed Syria's rebels in the conflict, invited the newly formed opposition coalition to appoint its ambassador to the Gulf state, the Qatari news agency reported.
The broad coalition — called the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces — was formed Nov. 11 in Qatar under pressure from the United States for a stronger, more united opposition body to serve as a counterweight to the more extremist forces fighting Assad's regime.
The six-national oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union's 27 foreign ministers recognized the Syrian coalition. Last week, France became the first Western nation to officially recognize the council. President Barack Obama said the U.S. isn't ready to recognize the group as a "government in exile" or to arm it.
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