A suicide car bomb killed at least 15 people and wounded 53 in Damascus yesterday in what the Syrian prime minister said was a response to army gains against rebels near the capital.
The bomb near a school in the Sabaa Bahrat district, which also houses the Central Bank and Finance Ministry, set cars ablaze and damaged buildings.
A Damascus resident who described the blast as the biggest she had heard during the two-year-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad said large plumes of smoke were rising from the Sabaa Bahrat district.
Car bombs and attacks on civilians are commonplace in Syria's conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed more than 70,000 people.
Each side has accused the other of using chemical weapons, among other breaches of international law, although it remains unproven whether such weapons have actually been fired.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said an advance team of experts had gone to Cyprus and was awaiting permission from the Syrian government to investigate the conflicting assertions.