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At least 40 killed in Syrian weapons depot blast

Damascus, Aug 1, 2013, (AP): 22:01 IST
In this image taken from video posted by Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show a fireball from an explosion at a weapons depot set off by rocket attacks that struck government-held districts in the central Syrian city of Homs on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. The blasts sent a massive ball of fire into the sky, killing scores and causing widespread damage and panic among residents, many of whom are supporters of President Bashar Assad.(AP Photo)
Rocket attacks struck government-held districts in the central Syrian city of Homs today, setting off successive explosions in a weapons depot that killed at least 40 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.

He said the explosions caused massive destruction and wounded at least 130 people. He didn't offer a number for those killed.

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 40 people were killed and 120 were 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.

He said the explosions were so strong that "they shook parts of the city." They also shattered all windows in the area and cracked walls, he added.

He said he spoke with Syrian Arab Red Crescent paramedics who told him that at least 22 bodies were taken to hospitals. The explosions in Homs coincided with a rare trip by President Bashar Assad to a former rebel bastion near the capital, Damascus, to mark Army Day.

Assad's visit to Daraya is his first known public trip outside the capital, his seat of power, in more than a year.

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