Syrian rebels claim to have killed at least 40 Hezbollah militants and Iranian agents in Damascus over the weekend.
According to their reports, rebels belonging to the Free Syrian Army detonated a car packed with explosives next to a compound belonging to the government defense apparatus, where the pro-Assad fighters were gathered. Members of the Shabiha, the regime’s civilian-clad enforcement apparatus, were reportedly also at the compound when the blast occurred.
FSA reports indicate the incident took place in the al-Shaghour neighborhood within Damascus’ walled old city, which was once a heavily Jewish area. But according to Al Arabiya, state television broadcast images of the blast, claiming it was a roadside bombing that did not take place in the heart of the city.
There has been no independent verification of the claims.
The attack comes during another bloody weekend in Syria. Opposition activists said Saturday that government warplanes bombed a predominantly Sunni village in northwestern Syria, killing at least 20 people as government forces pushed to retake territory in the region along the Mediterranean coast.
The rebel capture last week of 11 villages in the regime stronghold of Latakia province along the coast was a symbolic blow to Assad, whose troops have otherwise been making gains in central Syria. Assad’s forces are trying to retake those villages, which are predominantly populated by members of Assad’s Alawite sect.
The mountainous region is also home to villages populated by Sunni Muslims, who dominate the rebel ranks. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighter jets struck the Sunni village of Salma, late Friday, and that at least half of the dead were fighters.
The state media said Saturday that government troops recaptured three of the 11 villages. Activists confirmed the fall of one village but said fighting was continuing in the other two.
Most of Latakia province has been under tight government control and comparatively peaceful during the conflict. But earlier this week, rebels swept through several villages, causing civilians to flee. At least 60 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in the offensive, activists said. They say another 400 civilians, mostly Alawites, are missing and are presumed to be in rebel custody. The activists spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
In Damascus, three people were killed in a mortar attack on the residential district of Dukhaniya, the state news agency said.