At least 39 people have been killed in the latest surge in violence in Syria, while al-Qaeda-linked fighters tighten their grip on a border town near Turkey after killing and expelling fighters from the main opposition armed group.
Activists said 20 people were killed on Thursday in a car bombing of a government building in the town of Zamalka, near the capital Damascus.
Elsewhere in Syria, a roadside bomb struck a bus in a village in the central Homs province, killing 19 people, according to a local government official.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) put the death toll in the blast at 14.
“Several explosive devices detonated as a convoy of minibuses drove past,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the network’s director, said
The village is predominantly Alawite, an offshoot of Shia Islam and a minority sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs, but it also has Christians and Sunni Muslims.
The bombings came a day after al-Qaeda-linked fighters captured a town near the Turkish border in the north of Syria.
An activist group said on Thursday that the town changed hands after heavy clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters who controlled the area.
Turkey has temporarily shut its border post after the gun battles.
“The Oncupinar border gate has been closed due to activity and uncertainty on the Syrian side of the border,” a government official told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity, adding that it was a temporary measure.
The US and its European and Gulf Arab allies are increasingly concerned about the rising prominence of al-Qaeda-linked groups among the fighters, who have been playing a major role in the battles against Assad’s forces.
Heavy fighting between rebels and government forces has reportedly been taking place in the area in eastern Damascus on Thursday morning.