A top Syrian air force general was shot dead on Monday evening as he left a friend’s home, the state Television reported on Tuesday, blaming “terrorist groups” for the targeted assassination.
The opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed responsibility for the killing of General Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi.
“In the context of operations against the criminal regime, the Rukn al-Din Martyrs Battalion assassinated on Monday air force General Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi. He was in charge of training in the air force,” the FSA said on its Facebook page.
“We also killed air force intelligence official Sergeant Ahmed Abdul Haq,” the statement said, adding a threat against “all those who collaborate with the regime.”
State television blamed “terrorist groups” for Khalidi's assassination in the north Damascus district.
“As part of their campaign to target national personalities and scientists, armed terrorist groups assassinated... Khalidi in the Damascus district of Rukn al-Din,” the broadcaster said.
“He was one of Syria's foremost experts in aviation,” it said, adding that he was a father of four children.
The general was a member of the Syrian Air Force command, a security source in Damascus told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He was shot dead on Monday evening as he left a friend's home, the source added.
Assad's regime routinely refers to rebels fighting to overthrow it as terrorists.
Since late July, air force fighter jets and helicopters have played a key role in the war against rebels.
A Syrian fighter jet on Tuesday carried out the first warplane air strike on the city of Damascus since the start of the country's conflict 19 months ago, a monitoring group said.
“The jet dropped four bombs on the east Damascus neighborhood of Jobar,” said the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Jobar is located near the rebel-held town of Zamalka, said Abdel Rahman, who added that fierce combat raged there between rebels and the army on Tuesday.
To date, the army had used only helicopter gunships to strafe areas inside Damascus.
In recent days, the air force has intensified its warplane air strikes on rebel-held areas across the country.
In another air strike, fighter jets bombarded the rebel-held town of Douma in the province of Damascus, killing and wounding a large number of people, the Observatory said.
“Fighter jets bombarded the Douma district of Hajariyeh, causing enormous destruction in the area and the death and injury of dozens of people,” the watchdog said, without providing an exact toll.
On the ground, conditions in Damascus have been escalating as fierce clashes broke out Tuesday in a major Palestinian refugee camp south of Syria’s capital, pitting rebels against troops backed by pro-regime Palestinian fighters, activists and a watchdog said.
The fresh violence came after the feast of Eid al-Adha came to a close on Monday, with 560 people, including 235 civilians, reported killed during a failed ceasefire attempt over the four-day Muslim holiday.