At least 48 people were killed and 110 others were injured on Saturday when a fuel truck exploded in the busy commercial district in a rebel-held Syrian town (in Aleppo’s opposition-held Azaz district in north western Syria) along the Turkish border. A huge explosion that damaged buildings (Court house, the Security headquarters, Red Crescent and Municipality offices) and left rescue workers scrambling to find for survivors amid the wreckage, activists and rescue workers said.
The attack appeared to be the deadliest yet in the town in northern Aleppo province, which has been regularly hit by bombings targeting rebels and civilians.
The explosion went off early Saturday afternoon outside a local court house located in north Aleppo province, just seven kilometers south of the Turkish border and security headquarters operated by the opposition fighters who control the town. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, six military personnel were among the fatalities but most of those killed were believed to be civilians when a vehicle laden with explosives detonated.
Rami Abdel Rahman, Chief of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said identification of the dead was being hampered by the fact that some bodies were completely burned in the blast. Over 53 wounded Syrians were transported to the Turkish border town local hospital of Kilis for treatment, five other transferred to Gaziantep in critical condition as local hospitals couldn’t cope.
A medical worker speaking to a local media outfit, al-Jisr, said many charred bodies, and body parts mixed with bones and mud, were piled up in local hospitals.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Saturday’s incident but Osama al-Merhi, a lawyer at the scene of the blast, targeted his voice at Islamic State (IS).
“These kinds of crimes are only committed by the terrorist group Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS),” he said.
Locals said a rigged tanker caused the explosion and blamed Islamic State militants, who have carried out attacks in the town before. Rami Abdurrahman (the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group) said the explosion was caused by a rigged water or fuel tanker, which explained the large blast and high death toll.
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Video from the scene showed a huge plume of black smoke rising above the chaotic market and twisted metal, which bulldozers were working to clear. Raging fires were burning in several vehicles, and the fire brigade was battling to put them out with a giant water tanker and hoses.
The latest incident come amid a nationwide week-long cease-fire agreement has mostly held across most of Syria after Russia and Turkey, and welcomed by the UN Security Council in December 2016, announcing the end of the four-year battle. The Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaida-linked affiliated Fatah al-Sham Front are not included in the agreement, according to the Syrian government.
But the nationwide week-long ceasefire and the planned talks have been browbeaten by ongoing violence in the rebel-held Wadi Barada area outside Damascus, which is the main water source for the capital.
The government says Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham is present in Wadi Barada region, and claims rebels there for cutting water to Damascus since December 22. Rebels deny the jihadist group is in the area and say the mains supply was severed after government strikes hit pumping facilities in the area.
According to the United Nations (UN), the damage has left 5.5 million people in Damascus and its suburbs without water.
More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.