Seven people have died, five of them children, after a car bomb exploded near a primary school in the Syrian province of Homs, activists and state media have reported, as the death toll from bombing continues to rise.
The country’s official news agency SANA said on Sunday that the incident took place in the town of Omm al-Amd, which is home to a Shia Muslim community.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists and medics, confirmed the explosion and the death toll.
Sunday’s attack comes after more than a week of heavy shelling in Aleppo.
Syrian warplanes have been bombing the northern city, with opposition activists alleging that government forces dropped barrel bombs – barrels filled with explosives dropped from helicopters – on the city and several nearby villages.
Attacks last Thursday killed at least 11 people in two villages, among them four women and two children, according to the Observatory.
“I think it is trying to make the population turn against the rebels, so that the people themselves expel the fighters,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Observatory, said.
One Syrian security source denied that barrel bombs were used, but another said the Syrian military prefers such weapons over missiles because they are cheaper, according to the AFP news agency.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, Doctors Without Borders said that government air strikes had killed at least 189 people and injured 879 others in Aleppo since December 15.
The bitter cold has added to the misery of Syrians, with international aid agencies expressing concern about the impact of the 33-month conflict.
Half a million people across war-hit Syria have been wounded, many of them lacking access to basic healthcare and treatment, the International Committee for the Red Cross said on Sunday.
Millions have also been displaced inside Syria and tens of thousands detained, ICRC chief Magne Barth said in a statement.
“At least half a million people have been wounded across the country and millions remain displaced and tens of thousands detained,” he said.
“The wounded are often not cared for properly and the chronically ill often do not receive the treatment they need,” Barth added.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said last Monday that half of Syria’s population of around 23 million is “food insecure” and nearly a third needs urgent assistance.
“Recent assessments show that almost half the population inside Syria is food insecure and close to 6.3 million people need urgent, life-saving, food assistance,” WFP said in a statement.
The Observatory for Human Rights says that more than 126,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict started in mid-March 2011 and that millions more have been forced to flee their homes.
The ICRC says 32 volunteers who worked for the Syrian Red Crescent are among the dead.