DAMASCUS — Syria’s state-run media says mortar fire has exploded near the Damascus Opera House, killing two people.

SANA also said that other mortar shells hit nearby areas on Sunday morning.

Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad often fire mortar shells into the heart of Damascus from strongholds in outlying communities, but the fire has been more intense in recent weeks. The heavier mortar fire is likely to be a response to pro-Assad forces advancing in rebel held areas around the capital and on the Lebanese border.

On Saturday, mortar fire injured 22 people in Damascus.

The Opera House, officially called the Assad House for Culture and Arts, hosted a defiant speech by the embattled leader last year in which he vowed to keep fighting.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.