A tragic incident unfolded on Thursday when a Syrian military academy came under a devastating attack, resulting in the loss of over 100 lives, as reported by a monitoring group focused on the conflict. State media attributed the lethal drone strike in Homs, a region under government control, to “terrorist organizations.” This attack occurred during a graduation ceremony for military academy officers in the central Syrian city of Homs, with an army statement conveyed by the official news agency SANA attributing responsibility to “armed terrorist organizations.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring organization based in the UK, adjusted its initial death toll, reporting “more than 100 casualties, with approximately half of them being military graduates, including 14 civilians.” The Observatory further noted that at least 125 individuals sustained injuries. Health Minister Hassan al-Ghobash offered a preliminary count, indicating that 80 people lost their lives, including six women and six children, while around 240 others were wounded.
No entity immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which involved the use of “explosive-laden drones,” as stated in the military’s official announcement. The government vowed to respond with utmost force and declared a three-day mourning period starting from the following Friday.
Later in the day, within the rebel-held Idlib region, residents reported extensive and intense bombardment by forces loyal to the government. The Observatory documented four civilian casualties and multiple injuries resulting from the offensive targeting several towns within this opposition stronghold located in northwestern Syria. It’s worth noting that significant portions of Idlib province are under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which was previously affiliated with Al-Qaeda and has previously employed drones to target government-held areas.
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, expressed profound concern over the drone attack and the retaliatory shelling taking place in northwest Syria, according to statements made by his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric.
Furthermore, Turkish airstrikes in the Kurdish-held northeast of Syria were reported to have claimed at least nine lives, according to accounts from Kurdish forces. These strikes followed Ankara’s threat of retaliation for a recent bombing attack. Among the casualties, six were members of the internal security agency, and two were civilians. Turkey has been conducting intermittent strikes in this semi-autonomous region predominantly occupied by Syrian Kurds.
These airstrikes came in response to Ankara’s warning of heightened cross-border aerial operations, which was prompted by the conclusion that the perpetrators of a recent attack in the Turkish capital had infiltrated from Syria. Notably, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) played a pivotal role in ousting Islamic State fighters from their final Syrian strongholds in 2019. However, Turkey views the prominent Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) within the SDF as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies.
In response to Turkey’s escalating attacks, several targets, including oil facilities, power stations, and the vicinity of a dam near the Turkish border, were struck. The situation in the region continues to deteriorate, with local vendors in the city of Qamishli expressing their concerns about Turkey’s actions, which they perceive as suffocating. The Kurdish administration called on the international community to take measures aimed at deterring Turkey from its offensive.
Adding complexity to the situation, the United States, Russia, and Turkey all maintain military presences in Syria. Turkey conducted three major operations in northern Syria against Kurdish forces between 2016 and 2019. The Syrian conflict, originating in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, has evolved into a multifaceted battleground involving foreign armies, militias, and jihadist groups, resulting in the loss of over half a million lives.