Militants shelled the coastal Syrian city of Latakia on Tuesday, killing at least 16 and wounding 53, state media reported, in one of the deadliest attacks on the government stronghold in recent months.

State news agency SANA said the shells were fired by militants affiliated with al-Qaida's branch in Syria, known as the Nusra Front, and the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham group.

Syrian state TV said two shells hit an area near Tishrin University on Tuesday afternoon. TV footage showed at least one car on fire and several others, including a minibus, hit with shrapnel. Blood could be seen on the road.

Latakia has been spared the worst of Syria's civil war but has recently been shelled on several occasions.

The latest shelling came during an offensive by government forces in the mountains near the city under the cover of Russian airstrikes. Russian warplanes have been taking off from a military air base south of Latakia since Sept. 30, carrying out strikes around Syria.

Also Tuesday, residents in Syria's capital Damascus said rebels shelled several neighborhoods in the city. SANA said the shelling killed one person and wounded five.