Syria mourns Homs drone victims as gov’t, Russian attacks in Idlib kill 11

Funerals held for victims of attack on military academy during graduation ceremony.

Coffins carrying the bodies of some of the people killed in an attack on a military academy lie on the ground outside a military hospital in Homs, Syria [Yamam al Shaar/Reuters]

Eleven civilians, including a two-year-old child, have been killed in opposition-held Idlib, as Syrians began burying the dozens of people killed in Thursday’s large-scale drone attack on a military academy in the western city of Homs.

Government forces stepped up shelling and missile attacks on Idlib after the Homs strike, the deadliest attack on government-held territory in years. Fourteen people were killed by government attacks in Idlib on Thursday, according to the Syrian Civil Defence, before three more were killed on Friday.

The two-year-old child was killed in a Russian air attack on a family home in the village of Jaftallak Haj Hamoud, north of Jisr al-Shughour, according to the Civil Defence, medics and locals.

A married couple was among four people killed in Idlib city, where Syrian government artillery hit residential neighbourhoods on Friday evening.

Friday prayers were cancelled by authorities in opposition-held areas of Idlib and Aleppo, out of fear that mosques could be attacked.

The bombardment has left civilians fearful of what may come in the next few days.

“I was sleeping and suddenly the sounds of a strong explosion rang out,” said Muhammad al-Sameeh, a resident of Termanin, where four people were killed. “It was like judgement day… It turned out that there was bombing in our neighborhood. I felt very afraid. We were already displaced because of the bombing and military escalation, but it followed us here. Now we have to move again, but I don’t know where to.”

Baby on a hospital bed
A survivor of the bombardment in Idlib receives treatment at Idlib city’s main hospital [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

The bombardment of rebel territory came as mourners took to the streets in Homs on Friday, with coffins draped in Syrian flags laid outside the Homs military hospital as a military band played sombre music and soldiers saluted.

On Thursday, several drones attacked a graduation ceremony in the academy’s courtyard, where families had gathered with the new officers.

Syria’s Ministry of Health said at least 89 people had been killed, including 31 women and five children. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict, put the toll at more than 120. Syria has declared three days of national mourning.

There have been no claims of responsibility for the attack, and Syria’s Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs and Expatriates blamed what they described as “terrorist” groups without providing specifics. They promised to respond “with full force”.

A family portrait lies on the floor amid the rubble of a home
A family home received a direct hit in the village of Jaftallak Haj Hamoud [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

Thursday’s attack was an unprecedented use of drones against government forces in the war, which began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 and spiralled into a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, who has reported extensively on Syria, said the attack represented “a major security breach, a blow to the Syrian regime”.

“It has been years since the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, have been targeted in such an operation in the heart of government-controlled territory,” she said.

“It seems that the Syrian regime is blaming the opposition because just moments after this attack, their planes started to target residential areas in the opposition-controlled enclaves in the northwest of the country,” she added.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “expressed deep concern” about the drone attack in Homs, as well as “reports of retaliatory shelling” in northwest Syria, his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

Meanwhile, Russian President and Syrian government ally Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to al-Assad, Lebanese station Al-Manar reported on Friday.

Additional reporting by Ali Haj Suleiman in Idlib.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies