BEIRUT — A rebel-claimed bombing Thursday in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo leveled a once-luxurious hotel near the ancient Citadel that government troops used as a military base, causing multiple casualties, activists and militants said.
Syrian state television said the explosion struck the Carlton Hotel in a government-held area on the edge of a contested neighborhood in the old part of Aleppo.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which maintains a network of activists on the ground, said at least 14 soldiers were killed in the blast. The Islamic Front, Syria's biggest rebel alliance which claimed the attack, claimed to have killed 50 soldiers. Both groups did not say how they know how many soldiers died, and the claims could not be independently verified.
In a live broadcast from the site of blast, the station's correspondent in Aleppo stood on a huge pile of rubble with twisted metal and palm trees sticking out, saying that the army had been using the building as a base and soldiers were positioned there at the time of the explosion. In the broadcast, Syrian TV did not mention casualties but said the rebels blew up the building by tunneling underneath and planting explosives.
"They use tunnels like rats because they cannot face the Syrian Arab Army," the correspondent said, adding that the explosion felt like an earthquake to those around Aleppo.
The attack was the second carried out by the Islamic Front against the Carlton. The first, allegedly carried out also through explosives-packed tunnels, caused a partial collapse of the building in February. The Front is an alliance of several Islamic groups fighting to topple Assad.