Death Toll in Syria Climbs with No End in Sight

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The death toll from two years of fighting in Syria is approaching 70,000, according to United Nations estimates.

Today that number jumped by dozens more after a bombing in the heart of Damascus.

Once again, smoke billowed over the Syrian capital, another sign of the death and destruction that have plagued the country.

Syrian State TV put the death toll at 53 for the attack near the ruling Baath Party headquarters. Other sources said the death toll is slightly lower.

The car bomb exploded near a security checkpoint, killing mostly civilians. The government claims more than 200 were wounded.

What does the violence mean for Christians in Syria? CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell, has that and more, on CBN Newswatch, Feb. 21.

The killings are a violent answer to recent calls for both the ruling Assad regime and the Syrian opposition to come to the bargaining table.

An al Qaeda-linked group called Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been fighting alongside the opposition, has claimed credit for the bombing. The group said it has been responsible for at least 17 recent bombings in and around Damascus.

This bombing took place near the Russian embassy, perhaps a signal to the Russians, who have sponsored Syrian President Bashar Assad for decades, to back off.

Less than 24 hours before the bombing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, flanked by members of the Arab League, said at a press conference in Moscow that both sides in the Syrian conflict needed to prepare for dialogue as the only solution.

The Russian government conducted an airlift this week of 99 Russian and former Soviet citizens who had been living in Syria, flying them back to Moscow.

The plane dropped off humanitarian items such as food and generators to the port of Latakia, where Russia has had a military presence.

Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition is threatening to attack Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah guerrillas, who they say are fighting for Assad in Syria.

The opposition said it will also attack Hezbollah inside Lebanon if necessary, which could lead to a wider Sunni-Shiite conflict beyond Syria's borders.

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John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

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