Funerals for the 44 victims of twin car bombs in Damascus turned into a strong display of support on Saturday for President Bashar al-Assad, hailed by crowds of mourners who denounced the United States and its Arab allies for interfering in Syria.
The United Nations expressed grave concern over the bombings, which marked an ominous escalation in the violence that has rocked the Arab nation for the past nine months, claiming at least 5,000 lives.
Syria said Al Qaeda terrorists were behind the attacks.
There has been no claim of responsibility. Opposition members said they suspected the Assad government carried out the bombings itself, to prove to the world it is facing a ruthless insurgency by armed Islamic fundamentalists.
In Cairo, Sudanese General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi said he would go to Damascus on Saturday to assume his role as head of an Arab League monitoring mission which is intended to fan out over the country and verify an armistice. The first batch of about 50 monitors is expected to travel to Syria on Monday. Assad opponents say the mission will only be used as a foil to gain time while government security forces advance their drive to smother the revolt.
“I am optimistic that the mission of the monitors will be successful and that events such as yesterday's blasts in Damascus will not affect the mission,” Dabi told reporters.