Rocket attacks struck government-held districts in the central Syrian city of Homs on Thursday, setting off successive explosions in a weapons depot that killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens, an opposition group and residents said.
The blasts sent a massive ball of fire into the sky, causing widespread damage and panic among residents, many of whom are supporters of President Bashar Assad.
One resident said the explosions were so strong they cracked the walls of some buildings. Thick smoke and dust could be seen from a distance as explosions shook the ground.
A video posted online by activists showed a huge ball of fire over Homs neighborhoods.
The explosions in Homs reflected the see-saw nature of the conflict. It showed that despite significant advances by Assad’s military, rebels could still strike back.
An official at the governor’s office in Homs said about 10 rockets slammed into the neighborhood of Zahra and the nearby sports stadium, sparking a large fire and causing several casualties.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations. He did not give a casualty figure.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely monitors the fighting in Syria, said 22 people were killed and dozens wounded — some critically — when rockets struck an arms depot, igniting the fire.
A resident of Homs corroborated that account, saying he heard blasts for more than an hour after the first explosion. He said they could be heard from the overwhelmingly pro-regime districts of Wadi Dahab and al-Walid, where the regime is known to keep arms depots.
“Rockets were falling on the area … when the arms depot began to explode but we don’t know if the rockets triggered the blasts,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.