Drones laden with explosives hit a military college graduation ceremony in the western Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday, killing 80 people, including women and children, and wounding hundreds more, according to Syria’s Minister of Health.
“In a preliminary toll, the terrorist act that targeted the graduation ceremony of students at the Military College in Homs led to the death of 80 martyrs, including 6 children, and the number of injured was 240,” Hassan Al-Ghobash said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. In an earlier statement, the defense ministry blamed “terrorist organizations supported by well known international parties.”
“There were dozens of wounded soldiers, with critical injuries among the invited families, including women and children, in addition to a number of college students participating in the graduation,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Syrian armed forces said the attack was “unprecedented,” and vowed to respond “with full force and determination, warning that those who planned and executed the attack “will pay dearly.”
The ancient city of Homs, once known as the capital of the Syrian revolution, was the site of intense battles between regime forces and opposition fighters seeking to unseat President Bashar Al Assad in 2012. The city fell to the regime in 2014, when rebels left it after a two-year siege.
Located in the agricultural heartland of central Syria, the city had long been a transport and commercial hub of vital strategic importance. The road through Homs connects the capital, Damascus, in the south to Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, in the north.
Meanwhile, at least eight people were killed on the other side of the country Thursday by Turkish airstrikes targeting Kurdish-controlled areas of northeastern Syria, according to a statement by Kurdish security forces in the region.
“The Turkish state launched on Thursday a series of attacks on our regions with more than 15 drones penetrating the airspace of northeastern Syria, and again targeted many positions, infrastructure, service facilities, and gas and oil stations, resulting in death and injuries. Its aggression also affected areas populated by civilians,” said Asayish, the Kurdish internal security force.
Turkey’s military has launched a series of airstrikes against Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq following a deadly bombing in the Turkish capital on Sunday. The attack in Ankara was claimed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has carried out a decades-long insurgency against the government and is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.