Following the state television reports, at least 53 people have been killed in an attack in the central desert province of Homs, Syria. This comes days after a magnitude of 7.8 earthquakes struck southeastern Turkiye and neighboring Syria on February 6, destroying thousands of buildings and claiming tens of thousands of lives.
Presently, there have been no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack.
The news agency SANA reported that the bodies of the victims that were taken to the Palmyra state hospital had gunshot wounds to the head, citing the hospital’s head as saying.
As per the news agency AFP’s report, the director of Palmyra hospital, Walid Audi, stated that among the 53 killed, 46 were civilians and the remaining others were 7 soldiers. Audi told the pro-government radio station Sham FM that their bodies had been brought to the hospital after the ambush that targeted dozens.
State media stated that the victims had been gathering desert truffles when they were attacked. It must be noted that the Syrian government and its allies control the Homs province.
If it were confirmed that ISIL was responsible, the attack would mark the deadliest by the group since January 2022 when its fighters stormed a prison in the northeastern city of Hassakeh that is controlled by the Kurdish in a bid to free their fellow ISIL members.
The group once controlled vast swathes of territory in Syria but had lost its hold on the region in separate offensives by US-backed fighters, Syrian government forces backed by Russia, regional soldiers, and Turkish-backed rebels. Currently, ISIL uses sleeper cells in order to wage hit-and-run attacks in Syria.
In recent years, many individuals, including women and children, have been targeted while truffle hunting in central, northeastern, and eastern areas of Syria. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had also reported the attack earlier on Friday. Further, in an incident on Saturday, sixteen people, mostly civilians, were killed in a similar attack that targeted foragers in the same area, said the Observatory, which relies on a vast network of sources on the ground.
Moreover, the Observatory stated that dozens of others were kidnapped in the attack. At the same time, adding that 25 of them were released but the fate of the others remains unknown.
In April 2021, the extremist group launched a similar attack where they abducted 19 people, mostly civilians, in the eastern countryside of Hama province.
In another incident on Friday, the US Central Command stated that four American military personnel were injured in a blast while conducting a raid that killed a senior ISIS leader, identified as Hamza al-Homsi, in Syria.
The ISIS leader was killed, while the US troops and a working dog were being treated at an American medical facility in Iraq, it added.