An attack Thursday on a Syrian military academy killed more than 100 people, a war monitor said, with state media blaming “terrorist organisations” for the deadly drone strike in government-held Homs.
Separately, Turkish air raids in the war-torn country’s Kurdish-held northeast killed at least nine people, according to Kurdish forces, after Ankara had threatened raids in retaliation for a bomb attack.
In the central Syrian city of Homs, “armed terrorist organisations” targeted “the graduation ceremony for officers of the military academy”, an army statement carried by official news agency SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported “more than 100 dead, around half of them military graduates, and including 14 civilians”, revising up a previous toll. It said at least 125 others were wounded.
Health Minister Hassan al-Ghobash told state television the “preliminary” toll was 80 dead “including six women and six children” and around 240 wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The attack was carried out with “explosive-laden drones”, according to the military statement, vowing to “respond with full force”.
The government declared three days of mourning starting Friday.
Later Thursday in the rebel-held Idlib region, residents reported wide and heavy regime bombardment.
The Observatory said four civilians were killed and others wounded in the assault on several towns in the opposition bastion in the country’s northwest.
Swathes of Idlib province are controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, led by the former local Al-Qaeda branch. The jihadist group has used drones to attack government-held areas in the past.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is deeply concerned about the drone attack”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The UN chief “is also deeply concerned about reports of retaliatory shelling” in northwest Syria, Dujarric added.
Overnight, Syrian army shelling killed an elderly woman and four of her children in a rebel-held area of Aleppo province, rescue workers and the Observatory said.
– Power stations hit –
The Turkish strikes on Hasakeh province in northeast Syria “killed six members of the internal security” agency, a statement from the Kurdish force’s media centre said.
A worker at a site in the province was also killed, according to Farhad Shami, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurds’ de facto army.
The Kurdish authorities’ statement also said “two civilians” were killed in a strike on a motorcycle.
Turkey regularly strikes targets in Syrian Kurds’ semi-autonomous region.
On Wednesday, Ankara warned of more intense cross-border air raids, after concluding that militants who staged a weekend attack in the Turkish capital came from Syria.
The US-backed SDF led the battle that dislodged Islamic State group fighters from their last scraps of Syrian territory in 2019.
Turkey views the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that dominate the SDF as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Turkey has launched strikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq since Sunday’s attack in Ankara, which wounded two Turkish security officers outside the interior ministry and was claimed by the Kurdish group.
AFP correspondents in Syria’s northeast saw on Thursday smoke rising from oil sites near Qahtaniyeh, close to the Turkish border.
Two power stations in the area were also hit, as well as the vicinity of a dam.
– ‘Worsening’ –
The SDF’s Shami said the strikes had targeted military and civilian sites.
“There has been a clear escalation since the Turkish threats,” he said.
In the market of the city of Qamishli in Hasakeh province, vendors were worried.
“The situation is worsening every day. Turkey doesn’t let us breathe,” said Hassan al-Ahmad, a 35-year-old fabric merchant.
SDF commander Mazloum Abdi denied Wednesday that the Ankara assailants had “passed through our region”.
“Turkey is looking for pretexts to legitimise its ongoing attacks on our region,” he said.
The Kurdish administration urged “the international community” to “take a stand capable of dissuading” Turkey from its attacks.
State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said the United States “remains concerned about the military escalation in northern Syria”.
The United States, Russia and Turkey all have troops in the country.
Between 2016 and 2019, Turkey carried out three major operations in northern Syria against Kurdish forces.
The conflict in Syria has killed more than half a million people since it began in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, spiralling into a complex battlefield involving foreign armies, militias and jihadists.