Illustration: Rebel Free Syrian Army fighter
Illustration: Rebel Free Syrian Army fighter Reuters

A deadly suicide bombing hit central Damascus Tuesday, killing at least four people and injuring 17 others, according to state media.

State television reported that "a terrorist suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up in the Jebbeh district of the Jisr al-Abyad neighborhood, causing deaths and injuries."

The Syrian Observatory for human rights confirmed the attack, but put the number of dead at 2. The London-based monitoring group said that the target of the attack appears to have been an unspecified "government building".

The attack comes amid continuing violence both in and around the capital, as pro-regime forces continue their concerted push to drive rebel forces from the capital's suburbs and surrounding areas. Having lost considerable ground in the initial stages of the operation, Islamist rebel brigades have increasingly turned to suicide bombing attacks as a way of continuing to strike deep into regime-controlled territory.

Although the operation to root-out rebels in both the Damascus and Aleppo areas initially saw significant successes, rebels have been mounting counterattacks in some areas.

On Monday, Islamist rebels captured the historic Christian town of Maalula, to the north of Damascus, following three days of intensive clashes with government troops, and abducted 12 Syrian and Lebanese Orthodox nuns from their convent.

Syrian state news agency SANA had earlier said the rebels had entered the Mar Takla convent, in the middle of the city, which had previously been controlled by the army.

More than 100,000 people have died and millions more have been displaced since the start of the uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in 2011.