BEIRUT — Two booby-trapped vehicles exploded within hours of each other Friday in Syria's once-impregnable capital of Damascus, killing at least five police officers as rebels increasingly target President Bashar Assad's seat of power.
With the civil war intensifying, the head of the Red Cross warned after meeting with Assad that the situation in the country was "rapidly deteriorating." Elsewhere in Damascus, shells struck a Palestinian refugee camp, killing 10 people, state media said.
The uprising began in March 2011, when protests calling for political change were met by a violent government crackdown by government troops. Many in the opposition took up arms, and activists say more than 23,000 people have been killed. The government says more than 4,000 security officers are among the dead.
Damascus was relatively quiet until July, when rebels launched a bold attack, capturing several neighborhoods and setting off a bomb that killed four high-ranking security officials, including the defense minister and Assad's brother-in-law.
Since then, the regime has succeeded in largely quelling a rebel offensive in the capital, but has struggled to contain an opposition push into the northern city of Aleppo, the country's commercial hub.
Friday's first blast in Damascus killed five officers when a motorcycle packed with explosives blew up across the street from a mosque in the Rukneddine neighborhood, state TV said.