Syrian rebels blew up a luxury hotel turned army base in the historic heart of Aleppo on Thursday after tunneling under the front line that divides the main northern city.
State television gave no word on any casualties from the attack that leveled the famed Carlton Citadel Hotel just across the road from the city’s UNESCO-listed Citadel.
But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 troops and pro-regime militia were killed in the blast and its immediate aftermath.
A local activist group called the Sham News Network also reported the blast, saying that President Bashar Assad’s troops were based in the hotel.
Another activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the explosion struck Aleppo’s Old City, where rebels have been holed up from months. The Observatory said the rebels belonging to the Islamic Front group planted a huge amount of explosives in a tunnel they dug below the Charlton hotel, detonating it remotely.
It said the hotel was completely destroyed in the blast and that there were casualties among the troops.
Aleppo, the country’s largest city and former commercial hub, is carved up into rebel-held and government-held areas since the rebels launched an offensive there in mid-2010, capturing territory along Syria’s northern border with Turkey.
In recent months, government aircraft relentlessly has bombed rebel-held areas of the city and the opposition fighters have hit back, firing mortars into government-held areas. The rebels also have detonated car bombs in residential areas, killing dozens of people.