— A massive explosion in a tunnel dug by rebel fighters destroyed an historic hotel facing Aleppo's iconic 13th century Citadel. Both opposition and government sources are reporting numerous casualties among government troops being housed in the building.
Amateur video showed an enormous mushroom cloud rising into the sky over Syria's largest city of Aleppo after a blast leveled the Carlton Hotel, shattering windows and scattering debris for hundreds of meters. Explosives placed in a tunnel under the building destroyed the 150 year old Ottoman structure. Dozens were killed, including many government soldiers.
Government troops continue to hold the Citadel and several neighborhoods inside the historic old city of Aleppo, while rebels control surrounding districts and areas north and east of the city. Rebels recently agreed to lift a siege of the nearby government-held towns of Nubl and Zahra.
Government warplanes have pounded rebel districts of Aleppo with home-made “barrel bombs” since December, causing hundreds of casualties. Amateur video has shown entire buildings leveled in the aerial bombardment, with many residents buried under debris.
An explosion in a tunnel under a government military base earlier this week killed dozens of Syrian soldiers near the town of Ma'arat al Na'aman in Idlib province. Opposition activists say it took rebel insurgents over 50 days to dig that tunnel.
An amateur video showed rebel fighters digging one such tunnel somewhere in the north of Syria. The group of mostly young men show off their work to visitors, describing their efforts.
Syrian government sources claimed recently to have destroyed a number of rebel-built tunnels in the Damascus suburb of Joubar. Once a rebel-stronghold, most of Joubar has been recaptured by government forces.
A rebel commander in Syria's third largest city of Homs describes a deal with the government to exchange prisoners in parts of the country. He insists, however, that the deal is not a truce. Amateur video showed government soldiers being released Thursday as part of the deal.
Homs' Governor Talal Barazi explains on Syrian State TV that a third wave of rebel fighters are being allowed to leave the old city Thursday. Amateur video showed several groups of fighters being evacuated from the old city within the past 48 hours.
This scene taken from amateur video shows the explosion that destroyed the Carlton Hotel in Aleppo, May 8, 2014.
This scene taken from amateur video shows an explosion that destroyed the Carlton Hotel in Aleppo, May 8, 2014.
Syrian rebels detonated a huge bomb underneath the Carlton Hotel, completely demolishing it. Seen here are forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad standing on the debris of the fallen hotel, in historic Aleppo, May 8, 2014.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad stand on debris of a hotel used by al-Assad's forces, in historic Aleppo May 8, 2014.
A Free Syrian Army fighter helps another wounded rebel fighter, Al-Amariya district, Aleppo, May 8, 2014.
This photo shows Free Syrian Army fighters posing for a group photograph, exhausted and worn out from a year-long siege, before leaving Homs, May 7, 2014.
This scene from amateur video shows Syrian rebels boarding a bus leaving Homs, May 7, 2014.
Hundreds of Syrian rebels leave Homs under a cease-fire deal with government forces, May 8, 2014.
The exit of about 1,200 fighters and civilians marks a de facto end of the rebellion in the battered city of Homs, one of the first places to rise up against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, earning the nickname "capital of the revolution," Homs, May 7, 2014.
Free Syrian Army fighters on a bus leaving Homs, Syria, May 7, 2014.