Middle East

Syria petrol station hit by deadly car bomb

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Media captionState news agency Sana described the attack as a 'terrorist explosion'

At least nine people have been killed by a car bomb at a petrol station in the Syrian capital, Damascus, say activists.

The bomb reportedly hit the Barzeh al-Balad district, as large numbers of people were queuing for fuel.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group said the death toll from Thursday's attack was likely to rise.

The bombing comes a day after dozens of people were killed in an air strike on a petrol station south of the city.

Syria is in the grip of chronic fuel shortages, and motorists often wait for hours in queues at petrol stations.

On Tuesday, dozens of people were killed by an air strike on a petrol station in the outskirts of the capital,

'Shocking' figures

The opposition Revolution Leadership Council in Damascus said Thursday's explosion had been caused by a "a booby-trapped car", Reuters reported.

State news agency Sana described the blast as a "terrorist" attack on a petrol station near a hospital.

One local activist told Reuters he saw ambulances taking away people with severe burns.

"The station is usually packed even when it has no fuel. There are lots of people who sleep there overnight, waiting for early morning fuel consignments," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, there were fierce battles around some northern Syrian airports, as rebels tried to neutralise the government's overwhelming air advantage.

Rebels broke into the Taftanaz base in north-western Idlib province but were pushed back by the army, rebel sources and state media said.

Reports said Aleppo airport was also under siege, and has been closed since Tuesday because of repeated attacks.

State news agency Sana said government forces had "repelled the terrorists' attempt to attack the airport" and inflicted heavy losses.

Image caption Thursday saw fierce battles around some northern Syrian airports

More clashes were reported in suburbs of Damascus, with government troops trying to capture Daraya.

There was also fighting around the city and airport of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria.

On Wednesday, the UN's Human Rights Council said a new study suggested more than 60,000 people had died since the start of the unrest in Syria in March 2011, many more than activists have claimed.

UN rights chief Navi Pillay said the number of casualties was "truly shocking".