BEIRUT (AP) — A drone attack Thursday struck a packed graduating ceremony for military officers in the Syrian city of Homs, killing an unspecified number of civilians and military personnel and wounding dozens of others, Syrian state television reported.
Syria's military said in a statement that drones laden with explosives targeted the ceremony as it came to an end. They accused insurgents “backed by known international forces” for the attack, and said that some of the wounded were in critical condition, including women and children.
They didn't specify the number of casualties and didn't accuse anyone in particular of carrying out the deadly strike. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
However, Britain-based opposition war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that seven officers were killed, and another 20 were wounded. They added that among the personnel at the ceremony was Syria's defense minister.
The Syrian military in its statement said “that it will respond with full force and decisiveness to these terrorist organizations wherever they exist.”
Early Thursday, the Syrian government shelled a village in the rebel-held northwestern part of the country, killing at least five civilians, activists and emergency workers said.
The shelling, which comes amid a rise in strikes in the rebel-held enclave in recent days, 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 defense organization known as the White Helmets.
The dead included an older woman and three of her daughters and her son, according to the Observatory. Nine others from the family were wounded, it said.
Neither Syria nor its key military ally Russia commented on the shelling, but Damascus says strikes in the northwestern province target armed insurgent groups. The Syrian pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said the Syrian army had targeted the al-Qaida-linked militant group Hayat Tahrir al Sham in response to its shelling of government forces' positions in southern Idlib.
The White Helmets say the Syrian government strikes have increased this past week, including shelling in the city of Sarmeen on Tuesday that hit a school and mosque, killing at least six people. The first responders also said that shelling hit a house and farmland in Binnish near Idlib city, but didn't cite any casualties.
Northwestern Syria is mostly held by HTS, as well as Turkish-backed forces.
The vast majority of around 4.1 million people residing in the enclave live in poverty, most relying on humanitarian aid to survive. Many of them are internally displaced Syrians.
Meanwhile, local authorities in northeastern Syria under U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said 15 Turkish drone attacks Thursday struck oil fields and infrastructure across the enclave in Hassakeh and Qamishli provinces, including oil production facilities, electrical substations and a dam.
A statement from the authorities — known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria — said that six members of the security forces and two civilians were killed. Three other civilians were wounded.
Turkish authorities didn't immediately comment on the strikes.
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.
Ghaith Al-Sayed reported from Idlib, Syria.