Drone attack kills at least 100 at Syrian military academy

At least 100 people were killed on Thursday in an attack on a military academy in Syria, as reported by a war monitor and an official. Weaponized drones bombed the site minutes after Syria’s defense minister left a graduation ceremony there.

It marked one of the bloodiest attacks against a Syrian army installation, and it was unprecedented in its use of weaponized drones in a country that has faced 12 years of civil war.

Civilians and military personnel were killed in the attack on the military academy in the central province of Homs, as confirmed by Syria’s defense ministry. They mentioned that “terrorist” groups had used drones, without specifying any particular organization. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

A man injured in a drone attack that hit a military graduation ceremony in Homs, Syria, October 5, 2023. /Xinhua

A man injured in a drone attack that hit a military graduation ceremony in Homs, Syria, October 5, 2023. /Xinhua

Syria’s defense and foreign ministries vowed to respond “with full force.” Syrian government forces carried out heavy bombing attacks on the opposition-held zone of Idlib throughout the day.

Syria’s defense minister attended the graduation ceremony but left minutes before the attack, according to a Syrian security source and a security source in the regional alliance backing the Damascus government against opposition groups.

Health Minister Hassan Al-Ghobash provided a lower death count, telling state TV that 80 people had been killed, including six women and six children. He also mentioned about 240 people had been injured.

“After the ceremony, people went down to the courtyard and the explosives hit. We don’t know where it came from, and corpses littered the ground,” said a Syrian man who had helped set up decorations at the academy for the occasion.

Following the attack, the UN’s Syria envoy stated that the “horrific scenes” showed the status quo in the war-torn country was unsustainable warning that “the security situation could worsen further still.”

“I am gravely concerned by the escalating violence in Syria today,” Geir Pedersen, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said in a statement issued in Geneva. “Today’s developments further highlight that the status quo in Syria is unsustainable and that, in the absence of a meaningful political path… I fear we will only see further deterioration, including in the security situation,”

Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but spiraled into an all-out war that has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.

The Syrian army has been severely affected by the fighting and has relied heavily on military support from Russia and Iran, as well as fighters backed by Tehran from Lebanon, Iraq, and other countries.

Assad regained control over most of the country, but a swathe in the north bordering Türkiye is still held by armed opposition groups, including hardline jihadist fighters.

(With input from agencies)

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