The attack is a sign that violence in Syria is reaching the tightly controlled capital, which has been relatively quiet compared to other cities. Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility, it could also indicate that rebel soldiers who have risen up in numerous cities and towns are trying to step up action in Damascus.

SANA news agency said three gunmen opened fire at Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli in the morning as he left his home in the Damascus neighborhood of Rukn-Eddine. Al-Khouli was a doctor and the chief of a military hospital in the capital.

Such assassinations are not uncommon outside Damascus and army officers have been killed in the past, mostly in the restive provinces of Homs and Idlib.