Syrian rebels prepare to fire mortar at regime forces (file)
Syrian rebels prepare to fire mortar at regime forces (file)Reuters

A rare attack in the heartland of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has killed nearly two dozen people Tuesday.

The death toll from mortar fire on Syria's coastal city of Latakia has now risen to 22, one of the bloodiest shellings there since the country's war began, state media reported.

The toll rose to "22 people killed and 62 wounded" in the attack on eastern neighborhoods of the regime bastion, state television said.  

Earlier, state news agency SANA had said 12 people died and 57 hurt when two mortar rounds struck residential neighborhoods.

Latakia lies in the heartland of the minority Alawite sect to which Syria's ruling clan belongs and has been largely spared attacks during four and a half years of civil war.

A rare car bombing in September killed 10 people and wounded dozens in Hamam Square in the provincial capital.

Rebels and jihadists, including Al Qaeda's Syria affiliate, have long targeted the region, in part for its symbolic value as a regime stronghold.

According to a Syrian security source, Tuesday's attack took place near Latakia's Tishreen University, "where many students were gathered."

Abir Selman, a 24-year old literature student at the university, said she was waiting for the bus when the mortars struck.

"I saw blood everywhere and people running in every direction," she told AFP.  

"I passed by a corpse that had nothing left except for its legs... We wait at this bus stop every day," Selman added.

Syrian state television broadcast video footage of blood-stained streets littered with broken class and mangled cars.

Meanwhile, one person was killed and five wounded in a mortar attack on residential areas of Damascus, state television said.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 10 mortar rounds struck various neighborhoods of the capital.  

The Britain-based Observatory said another four people, including a child, were killed in government rocket fire on the flashpoint town of Douma, east of Damascus.

The toll was likely to rise as some of those wounded were in critical condition, the monitoring group said.

Douma lies in the opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta, which is regularly bombarded by regime forces.  

Suspected Russian strikes on the town last week killed at least 23 civilians.

AFP contributed to this report.