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Syria: Double blast hits army post in Damascus

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AMMAN, Jordan — Two bombs exploded near the Syrian military's joint chiefs of staff's offices in central Damascus on Sunday, lightly wounding four army officers and causing damage to a building and cars, state television said.

The twin blasts in the posh Abu Rummaneh district of the Syrian capital were the latest in a wave of bombings to hit Damascus in the recent month as clashes between government troops and rebels reached the tightly controlled capital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday's bombings, which Syrian government officials said appeared to target a building under construction near the offices of the joint chiefs of staff. The building, which is officially known as the Guards Battalion and was empty at the time of the blast, serves as a base for army officers who guard the joint chiefs of staff offices, which are located some 200 meters (yards) away.

Several past bombings have targeted the security establishment in Damascus, most notably a July blast that killed four senior security officials, including the defense minister and President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law.

The government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media, said the wounded Sunday were army officers and that they were hospitalized with unspecified "minor wounds" and later discharged.

Footage broadcast on Syrian state TV broadcast showed a damaged building with debris strewn across the street. The blasts punched a hole in one of the building's walls, and blew out the windshield and windows of an SUV parked nearby.

Sunday's twin bombing was the second in recent weeks to hit Abu Rummaneh. On Aug. 15, a bomb attached to a fuel truck exploded outside the Dama Rose hotel where U.N. observers stayed before ending their mission to Syria. That blast, which hit a military compound parking lot, wounded three people.

Late Saturday, a car bomb near a Palestinian refugee camp in a suburb of Damascus killed at least 15 people, according to Syria's state news agency. SANA said Sunday the explosion in the suburb of al-Sbeineh also wounded several people and caused heavy damage to buildings in the area.

It blamed the blast on an "armed terrorist group," the term it uses to describe the rebel Free Syrian Army seeking to topple Assad, but did not provide further details.

When Syria's unrest began last year, the country's half-million Palestinians at first struggled to remain on the sidelines. But in the past months, young Palestinian refugees — enraged by mounting violence and moved by Arab Spring calls for greater freedoms — have been taking to the streets and even joining the rebels.

Syrian's uprising began in March 2011 with largely peaceful protests, but has since morphed into a civil war in the face of a brutal government crackdown. Activists say at least 20,000 people have been killed so far.

While the military largely has been able to quell the offensive rebels launched in Damascus in July, it is still struggling to stamp out a rebel push in the northern city of Aleppo.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the military pounded rebel holdouts in Aleppo, the country's largest city and commercial capital, on Sunday. There was also fighting in central city of Homs, Idlib province on the border of Turkey and suburbs near Damascus.

The Observatory said several people were killed in the violence, but did not have any figures.

Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Albert Aji in Damascus contributed to this report.