At Least Four Killed as Militants Shell Damascus Int'l Fair

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his army has foiled Western attempts to overthrow his government thanks to assistance from allies including Russia, Iran, and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

"Their direct support - politically, economically and militarily - has made possible advances on the battlefield and reduced the losses and burdens of war", Assad added.

"The idea of these de-escalation zones is to stop the bloodletting. and the eviction of the armed groups handing over their weapons and the return of normalcy", Assad said.

Five people were killed Sunday, according to an NGO when a rocket landed near the entrance of the worldwide Fair of Damascus, inaugurated this week after an absence of five years due to the war in Syria.

The State television had reported that "citizens have been injured by a rocket" at the entrance of the Fair, without specifying the number or raise the dead.

But shortly later Sunday, a rocket struck close to the entrance of Damascus International Fair, the first time for the event since the conflict broke out in 2011.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported an explosion in the city saying it was likely caused by a vehicle blast and said there were several injuries, with some in critical condition.

Syrian TV said the rocket had caused casualties. It blamed the rebels in the suburbs of the capital, saying they fired the shell in violation of a truce reached earlier this month in the eastern suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta.

The United States and European countries, which maintain economic sanctions on the Assad regime, were not officially invited, although a handful of Western companies are attending on an individual basis.

France has been a leading backer of the Syrian opposition since 2011, and has regularly called for Assad's departure.

Ties have remained severed throughout the brutal civil war that followed, which has since killed more than 330,000 people.

Several Arab and Western countries also withdrew their diplomats from Damascus.

Mr Assad said that hardly a week passes without an attack in the West, referring to assaults carried out by IS supporters.

The plan included a cessation of hostilities, a halt to Syrian government air raids over designated areas, and provisions for humanitarian aid access.

  • Jon Douglas