London, Asharq Al-Awsat—At least 40 people were killed and hundreds injured in an ammunition depot blast that shook one of the pro-Assad neighborhoods in the embattled city of Homs on Thursday.
According to activists from the city, a series of explosions reverberated in the surrounding area as pillars of smoke billowed over the military site.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Free Syrian Army (FSA) coordinator Khaled Bakkar said that he did not have accurate information regarding the explosion but it is “likely that Assad regime warplanes shelled the location by mistake.” He added, “Such incidents have taken place frequently recently.”
The ammunition depot is believed to be one of the major military depots and is a strategic point for the Syrian forces in their offensive against the city of Homs.
Meanwhile, the Assad army continued its siege on several rebel-held districts in Homs with rocket and artillery fire. Some activists posted on the internet videos showing the regime forces bombarding the densely-populated Al-Waar district with mortar shells and rockets.
A suicide car bomb reportedly targeted an Assad regime checkpoint located in Al-Hassia district on the Damascus–Homs road, killing seven and injuring dozens of pro-Assad soldiers.
In Aleppo, “violent clashes erupted between FSA elements and pro-Assad Shabiha militia in the Al-Sabeel neighborhood,” anti-regime activists told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The FSA fighters reportedly targeted the Muhallab barracks with mortar shells, setting several military vehicles on fire, in a bid to gain control of the entire military barracks.
According to Sham News Network, anti-regime fighters targeted the strategic Assad Military Academy in the Hamadanieh neighborhood in Aleppo with rocket and mortar fire.
Islamist opposition rebels also announced that they would be taking drastic military and security measures against the Kurdish-dominated area in Ayn Al-Arab, putting more pressure on Kurdish militants who are said to have “risen above their differences in order to defend themselves,” Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.
At least 200 civilians from two Kurdish-majority towns in the north of Syria were kidnapped by militants linked to the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
This incident came against the background of the growing tensions between Islamist fighters and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) that is suspected of fighting alongside the regime.
However, a senior PYD figure, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Islamists allege that Kurds have links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to justify fighting them.”
Several anti-regime militias, including the Al-Tawhid Brigade and ISIS, issued a statement announcing the start of a full siege on the town of Ayn Al-Arab, as well as declaring the Manbej-Hasaka highway a military zone until they assume complete control over the area and expel all PKK checkpoints.
It was reported that the town of Kobane, home to approximately 50,000 Kurds, “witnessed a huge military mobilization of civilian Kurds who were armed to defend themselves and deter the successive Islamist attacks on the city.”
Miral Perorda of the Fraternity Center for Democracy and Civil Society told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Each Kurdish citizen is compelled to defend their possessions, so that what happened in Tal Abyad, where ISIS elements seized civilian properties, won’t be repeated.”
In separate news, the state-run SANA news agency released footage of Bashar Al-Assad during a trip to the city of Daraya in Rif Dimashq.
Assad reportedly delivered a speech to a group of fighters loyal to the regime on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of Army Foundation Day.
“If we in Syria were not sure of victory, we would not have had the will to . . . persevere in the face of more than two years of aggression,” he said.