In this December 12, 2012 photo a paramedic and policeman carry a body into an ambulance after explosions hit the main gate of the Syrian Interior Ministry in Damascus.

Beirut - Syria's state news agency says a bomb blast near the capital, Damascus, has killed 16 people. It says at least half of those killed are women and children.

The SANA news agency says a car packed with explosives blew up on Thursday near a school in a residential part of the southwestern suburb of Qatana.

The report quotes medics from a nearby hospital as saying 16 people were killed, including seven children and “a number” of women. It says nearly two dozen people were wounded.

Anti-regime activists say more than 40 000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime in March 2011. - Sapa-AP