At least five people have been killed in a mortar attack near an international exhibition complex in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that over a dozen other people were wounded, some critically, after the shell hit the vicinity of the entrance of the 59th Damascus International Fair, three days after its opening.
It added that the death toll could likely rise as the seriously injured may succumb to their wounds.
“We were preparing to receive visitors when I heard an explosion... then I saw smoke from the side of the entrance to the exhibition hall,” said Iyad Jaber, 39, a Syrian working at a textile stand.
The Syrian capital has been largely insulated from most of the rampant violence by foreign-backed terrorist groups, which is still underway almost across the Arab country, but several key militant enclaves remain in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus.
During the past few years, terrorists based in the Eastern Ghouta region have occasionally fired mortar shells at residential neighborhoods in the Syrian capital, inflicting casualties and causing material damage to properties. The Sunday shelling is also suspected to be launched from this region.
The Damascus International Fair, once the top event on Syria's economic calendar, was not held during the last six years, months after the outbreak of deadly foreign-backed militancy in the Middle Eastern country.
This year's trade fair, which opened on Thursday and was scheduled to last 10 days, has attracted the participation of 43 countries, 23 of which through their respective embassies in Damascus and 20 others through a number of their trade firms.
Bouthaina Shaaban, the political and media adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said on Friday that the trade fair could be perceived as a big victory for the Arab nation and a major blow to terror groups.
“The exhibition is a defeat for their project, but it does not mean that we have won the war completely. We are just at the beginning of the road towards reconstruction and rebuilding Syria,” she added.
Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then.
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