Damascus: Two mortars exploded near one of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s palaces in Damascus on Tuesday but caused only material damage, an official said.
The attack was another sign that the civil war is seeping into areas once considered safe and reaching closer to the heart of Assad’s seat of power in the capital.
The official said the rounds struck near the southern wall of the Tishreen palace in the capital’s northwestern Muhajireen district. No casualties were reported and it was unclear whether Al Assad was in the palace. He has two others in the city.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
Al Assad often uses the Tishrin palace to receive dignitaries and as a guest house for foreign officials during their visits to Syria.
His two other palaces are the People’s Palace on Qasioun mountain overlooking the capital and Rawda palace in the central neighborhood of Abu Rummaneh.
For security reasons, Al Assad movements are shrouded in secrecy and it is unclear how much time he spends in any of the palaces. His public appearances have grown increasingly infrequent as the civil war has spread.
The Syrian capital has largely been spared the violence that has left other Syrian cities in ruins. For weeks, however, rebels who have established footholds in the suburbs have been pushing closer to the heart of the city from the eastern and southern outskirts, clashing with government forces.
In the northern city of Aleppo, a Syrian missile strike leveled a stretch of buildings and killed at least 19 people, leaving residents combing through the rubble to find those trapped beneath it, anti-regime activists said Tuesday.
The strike was the latest salvo in a fierce and bloody 7-month battle for Syria’s largest city and economic center, a key prize in the civil war.
Rebels have slowly expanded their control over parts of Aleppo since first storming it last summer. The city is now divided between rebel- and regime-controlled zones.
Rebel forces have been trying for weeks to capture the city’s international airport and two military airbases nearby, while the government is bringing in reinforcements from areas it still controls further south and regularly bombing rebel areas from the air.
The Britain-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 19 people were confirmed dead in the attack late Monday night, including six children and three women.
The activist Aleppo Media Center said more than 40 were killed, though it did not provide names or videos of the dead. There was no way to reconcile the differing tolls.
Both groups said the strike appeared to be from a ground-to-ground missile. The Syrian government did not comment.