At least 53 people have been killed in an attack in Syria’s central desert province of Homs, state media has reported, blaming the killings on ISIL (ISIS).
The bodies of the victims that were taken to the Palmyra state hospital had gunshot wounds to the head, state news agency SANA reported on Friday, citing the hospital’s head as saying.
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State media said the victims had been gathering desert truffles when they were attacked. Homs province is controlled by the Syrian government and its allies.
“Fifty-three citizens who were truffle hunting were killed during an attack by the terrorists of IS to the southwest of the town of Al-Sokhna” in the desert east of Homs, state television reported.
The director of Palmyra hospital, Walid Audi, said the dead were 46 civilians and seven soldiers. Five people who were wounded were transferred to another hospital. One of the survivors told SANA that ISIL fighters had burned their cars.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack.
If 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 Kurdish-controlled northeastern city of Hassakeh in a bid to free fellow ISIL members.
The group once controlled vast swathes of territory in Syria but lost its hold on land in separate offensives by US-backed fighters, Syrian government forces backed by Russia, regional fighters and Turkish-backed rebels.
Now, ISIL uses sleeper cells to wage hit-and-run attacks in Syria.
Many people, including women and children, have been targeted in recent years while truffle hunting in central, northeastern and eastern areas of Syria.
Syrian government troops are spread thin across the country and rely heavily on their allies – including the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah and Iran – to maintain control over territory.
Separately on Friday, the United States Central Command said four US military personnel were injured in a blast during a raid that killed a senior ISIL leader in Syria, identified as Hamza al-Homsi.