BEIRUT – Heavy rebel shelling and government airstrikes around the Syrian capital on Wednesday killed at least 36 people and wounded scores more in a surge in violence just hours before the arrival of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, activists and state media said.
Zarif arrived in Damascus later in the afternoon and went straight into a meeting with President Bashar Assad. They are likely to discuss
a four-point proposal Iran wants to offer to the United Nations to end Syria’s grinding civil war. That plan reportedly includes a cease-fire and a “national unity government.”
The rebel shelling, apparently meant to send a message that Zarif was not welcome in Syria, began around the morning rush hour in Damascus with more than 50 shells striking the capital, including in the upper-class neighborhoods of Abu Rummaneh, Baramkeh and Qasaa. Syrian state television and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the shelling killed five people and wounded dozens more.