A drone attack struck a packed graduation ceremony for military officers in the Syrian city of Homs on Thursday, killing and wounding dozens, including civilians and military personnel, reports said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and the reports could not be independently confirmed. Earlier, the army said that drones laced with explosives had targeted the ceremony in the central city of Homs as it was wrapping up but didn’t provide any figures or breakdown of the casualties.
By nightfall, the military had still not provided any definitive casualty numbers. However, Syria's state television said the government has announced a three-day state of mourning, starting on Friday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said at least 60 officers and civilians were killed, and a further 120 were wounded in the drone strikes. The pro-government Sham FM radio station said 66 people died and around 190 others were wounded.
The military accused insurgents “backed by known international forces” of the attack, without naming any particular group, and said that some of the wounded were in critical condition, including women and children.
The Syrian military said “it will respond with full force and decisiveness to these terrorist organisations, wherever they exist.”
Following the drone attack, the government shelled villages in Idlib province, in the rebel-held northwestern part of the country. There were no immediate reports of casualties there.
The Syrian army shelled another village in the region earlier on Thursday, killing at least five civilians, activists and emergency workers said. The shelling hit a family house on the outskirts of the the village of Kafr Nouran in western Aleppo province, according to opposition-held northwestern Syria’s civil defence organisation known as the White Helmets.
The dead were an older woman and four of her children, according to the Observatory. Nine other members of the family were wounded, it said.
Northwestern Syria is mostly held by al-Qaida linked fighters as well as Turkish-backed opposition forces. The vast majority of around 4.1 million people residing in the enclave live in poverty, relying on humanitarian aid to survive. Many of them are Syrians, internally displaced by the war from other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, local authorities in northeastern Syria, which is under U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said Turkish drone attacks struck in Hassakeh and Qamishli provinces on Thursday, hitting oil production facilities, electrical substations and a dam.
A statement from the local Kurdish authorities said six members of their security forces and two civilians were killed.
Turkey didn't immediately comment on the strikes but Ankara says the main Syrian Kurdish militia is allied with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has led an insurgency against Turkey since 1984 that has killed tens of thousands of people. Ankara has declared the PKK a terrorist group.
Syrian Kurdish forces were a major U.S. ally in the war against the militant Islamic State group, which was defeated in Syria in March 2019.