A “huge explosion” has levelled a hotel in Aleppo that government troops used as a military base, according to state television and activists.
Syrian state television said Thursday’s explosion struck on the edge of a contested old neighbourhood in Aleppo. The television report identified the hotel as the Carlton hotel. Several other buildings were destroyed.
A local activist group called the Sham News Network also reported the blast, saying that regime troops were based in the hotel.
The monitoring network said the fighters belonging to the Islamic Front group planted a huge amount of explosives in a tunnel they dug below the Carlton hotel, detonating it remotely.
The Islamic Front said on Thursday that the explosion killed dozens of government soldiers in the explosion. It released two videos of the explosion.
The reports come months after a video was uploaded to YouTube showing rebels digging tunnels under the Carlton in February. The video then shows a large explosion, which partially destroyed the hotel.
The men in the video are heard saying: “This is old Aleppo, you are going to see wonders, a 75-metre tunnel. The heroes of the Islamic Front have been digging this tunnel.
“We can be 100 percent sure that we are under the Carlton hotel … today we will put the explosives.”
In a separate development, a video uploaded to YouTube on Thursday showed the release of several dozen Syrian soldiers by rebel fighters in Aleppo.
They were being released as part of a deal struck to allow rebels to withdraw in Homs city.
The commander of the rebels says: “They have been released in reply to the evacuation of our brothers in Homs… those who have been besieged for more two years, and they have nothing left to eat. We hope that we’ve done something to our people in Homs, the heart of the revolt.
“This is not a victory for the regime – the fact that our brothers survived in Homs for the past two years – what victory has the regime achieved?
“All the besieged areas have become ashes, there is nothing left in Homs. I consider it a victory for the rebels. They have been evacuated with their weapons and to the areas they have chosen.”