Bashar Assad attending prayers at Damascus mosque
Bashar Assad attending prayers at Damascus mosque Photo by Syrian State TV, screenshot
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Syrian rebels said on Thursday they targeted President Bashar Assad's motorcade as he was headingto attend prayers at a Damascus mosque to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, but footage broadcast by state television showed him unharmed.

The Tahrir al-Sham rebel brigade, a unit of the Free SyrianArmy, said in a statement: "After conducting reconnaissance (on) the timing and course of Bashar al-Assad's motorcade the areawas hit with artillery. We pray to God and await the field report about the results."

Following the statement, Syrian state television showed what it described as footage of Assad praying at Anas bin Malek Mosque in the Malki district, where his residence is located.

Islam Alloush of the Liwa al-Islam, another rebel brigade, told Reuters earlier on Thursday that rebels fired rockets which hit Assad's motorcade as he was heading to attend the prayers.

"Assad was not hit but the information we have based from sources within the regime is that there were casualties within his entourage," Allooush said

The Syrian information minister denies Assad's motorcade was hit by rebels.

Other activists also reported rockets were fired into the Malki area, which was sealed off by security forces. Assadappeared unharmed in the footage.

At least 18 people were killed late Tuesday when a booby-trapped car exploded in a heavily populated pro-Assad regime area outside Damascus, state media reported. Meanwhile, pro-opposition activists said a key military airport had fallen in the north.

Fifty-six people were wounded in the bombing in Jaramana, a Christian-Druze area on the south-eastern outskirts of Syria's capital, the official SANA news agency and state television said.

The blast caused heavy damage and set dozens of cars ablaze, opposition-linked activists in the region said.

The same square was the target of a similar blast July 25, which killed 10 people and wounded 66.

In the province of Aleppo, Syrian rebels, led by a group affiliated with al-Qaida, took full control of the military's Minnigh airport near the border with Turkey, a pro-opposition watchdog said. The airport is a strategic base for the Syrian Army to launch airstrikes on rebel-held areas in the northern province of Aleppo.

The al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant as well as other rebel brigades seized the airport, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At least 10 rebels and an unknown number of regime soldiers were killed in about 24 hours of fighting, the watchdog said. SANA denied the report. It said government troops were in control of the airport and "armed terrorist groups are receiving very severe losses" in and around the airport.

In other developments in the more than two-year Syrian civil war, rebels made advances in coastal areas in Lattakia province, a stronghold of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, said Abu Ahmad Ladkani, an opposition activist based in the province.

The advances prompted many Alawite residents to flee for fear of reprisals by the mainly Sunni rebels, he said.