BEIRUT - Explosions in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo struck two targets associated with the military and police early yesterday, Syrian state television reported, as the central city of Homs was reported to still be under siege with sporadic tank fire ripping into contested neighborhoods, pinning down residents in their homes.
State television said 28 people were killed and 235 injured in Aleppo in what seemed to be two car bombings.
One explosion erupted near a military intelligence directorate in Aleppo and the second at a police headquarters, state media reported, saying the blasts were the work of “terrorists.’’ Aleppo, Syria’s industrial center and most populous city, has been relatively quiet throughout the country’s 11-month-old uprising despite occasional demonstrations in recent weeks.
Activists said seven people were also killed in the city when troops fired on antigovernment demonstrators drawn to the streets to protest Russia’s support of President Bashar Assad. Protesters said the theme of yesterday’s demonstrations, which they hoped to stage nationwide, was “Russia is killing our children.’’
In the 1970s and 1980s, Aleppo was the scene of running battles between the government of President Hafez Assad, the current president’s father, and the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Images broadcast from one security compound showed bloodied bodies strewn on the ground outside the shattered buildings. The force of the blast shattered windows, upended vehicles, and twisted a black cast-iron fence. The blasts left both scenes a jumble of concrete blocks and other wreckage.
Live pictures from one site seemed to indicate that the building had been leveled. A deep hole in the ground several yards across, possibly caused by a booby-trapped vehicle, was filled with water. Bulldozers were already at work clearing the rubble.
Two bombings in Damascus in January and December killed 70 people, and the government blamed them on Al Qaeda or its sympathizers.
In Turkey, Captain Ammar al-Wawi, a spokesman for the Free Syria Army, an opposition group of military defectors, denied involvement in the latest explosions. He blamed the government itself for carrying out the attacks against what he said were two heavily guarded security compounds that it would have been difficult for civilians to approach.
“This regime is playing a well-known game, seeking to distract the world’s attention from the massacres in Homs,’’ Wawi said.
Another Free Syria Army commander said that the rebels had carried out an operation against security headquarters before the bombings but that they had nothing to do with the blasts.
The commander, General Aref Hamoud, said the operation had been an attempt to derail assaults by the security forces on demonstrators.
Also yesterday, a US military official acknowledged that the Pentagon has begun to review potential military options for dealing with the upheaval in Syria but said discussions were in the hypothetical phase.
The official, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions, said, “We’re looking at a whole range of options, but as far as going to one course of action, I’ve not seen anything.’’
The official declined to elaborate on the possible options, but typically the Pentagon - which as a matter of course reviews options when conflicts around the world arise - would consider everything from doing nothing, to arming rebels to covert action, airstrikes, or deploying ground troops.
The explosions in Aleppo came almost exactly a week after the authorities began what activists have depicted as a major effort to crush dissent, shielded by east-west international divisions that have blocked efforts to marshal global support behind a Western and Arab plan to force Assad to step aside.