BEIRUT A blast targeting a military complex in central Syria on Wednesday killed an unknown number people, a government official and activists said, while heavy fighting erupted in parts of the capital Damascus.
There were conflicting reports about the nature of the explosion in the city of Palmyra in the central province of Homs.
The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights said a car bomb blew up near a compound that houses a military intelligence branch and a state security agency. The group says several regime troops were killed in the bombing, and was followed by heavy clashes between rebels and government soldiers guarding the compound.
A Syrian government official confirmed the attack but said it was the work of two suicide bombers. He also said there were casualties in the blast, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although car bombs and suicide attacks targeting state institutions have been a hallmark of Islamic militants fighting alongside Syrian rebels aiming to topple President Bashar Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years.
Homs has been an opposition stronghold since the Syrian uprising erupted nearly two years ago. The province and its capital of the same name were the scene of massive protests early in the revolt, which has since devolved into a civil war that has turned urban centers like Homs and the northern city of Aleppo into battlefields.
In Damascus, activists said heavy fighting erupted in the western districts of the capital, and residents said the heavy thud of shelling in those neighborhoods was louder than in past weeks.
The United Nations say more than 60,000 people have been killed since conflict started in March 2011. At least 700,000 Syrians have fled their homes, seeking shelter in neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and more than one million people have been displaced within Syria during 22 months of fighting, according to aid agencies.