A loyalist enclave in the heart of Damascus was hit by multiple explosions Wednesday morning. The attack struck the Mezze 86 hilltop district, home to members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect.
Witnesses told reporters by phone that smoke appeared to be rising from heavy-caliber mortar shells in an area near the presidential palace.
Syrian state television confirmed that an attack had been carried out with mortar bombs and that there were casualties, but gave no further details.
The “shabbiha” presidential security guards were “firing automatic rifles wildly into the air,” a woman said, requesting anonymity. “Ambulances are racing to the scene.” The bombing came one day after clashes in numerous neighborhoods around the capital, where the civil war arrived several months ago.
A series of explosions struck Tuesday in the capital's northwestern district of Hai al-Wuroud, according to Syria's national news agency SANA. Bombings killed at least 15 people and wounded dozens more in the Damascus district populated mostly by members of Assad's Alawite sect, opposition activists said. Syrian state media confirmed that an explosion had hit Hai al-Wuroud, in the northwest of the capital, but said it had caused an unspecified number of deaths and injuries.
Alawite Islam is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, which is practiced by Iran and the Hizbullah terrorist organization.
The opposition forces fighting for control of Syria are mostly Sunni Muslims, as are a strong percentage of those in the Beirut government in Lebanon, as well as many regimes in neighboring Arab nations such as Bahrain and Qatar.
A certain percentage of those in the rebel forces, however, are allegedly comprised of Al Qaeda-linked terrorist splinter groups who practice the more extremist Salafi or Wahabi form of Islam.
The fractured state of the rebel forces and its inability to unite under one banner – due in part to its sectarian nature – is the main reason the opposition has been unable to secure stronger international support for its efforts.