DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Two mortar rounds landed near schools in predominantly Christian districts of the Syrian capital Tuesday, killing one child and wounding 41 other people, state media said.
Syria's official news agency said one of the shells struck a school in the Bab Touma neighborhood, killing one child and wounding 36 others. In a separate attack, another mortar round exploded near the Mar Elias Church in the Dweilaa district, wounding five people. The church compound also includes a school.
Rebels frequently launch mortar shells into government-held neighborhoods in the heart of the capital from outlying districts that are under opposition control.
The attacks come a day after Syrian troops swept through some of the last remaining opposition strongholds in the countryside north of Damascus. President Bashar Assad's forces captured three villages, including the ancient Christian hamlet of Maaloula, near the border with Lebanon as part of a government offensive aimed at severing rebel supply routes across the frontier.
On Tuesday, another town in the area, Assal al-Ward, fell into government hands, state TV said.
The Syrian army, backed by fighters from its Hezbollah allies, launched an offensive in the rugged region known as Qalamoun in November. It has captured all but a few opposition strongholds in the area since then, strengthening its grip on the border while also boosting the defenses of Damascus.
In the central city of Homs, 15-year-old Tarek Ghrair, a player for the country's national youth football team was killed when a mortar exploded near his home in the Ghouta district, according to the Syrian Football Association's president. The city's main stadium is located the neighborhood.
Homs, Syria's third largest city, has seen some of the worst fighting in the three-year-old conflict. The war has killed more than 150,000 people.
Associated Press writer Barbara Surk in Beirut contributed to this report.