More than 100 people were killed in Syria in 24 hours of violence after fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked regime troops and a suicide bomber caused carnage at Kurdish New Year celebrations, a monitor said Friday.
More than 70 members of government forces were killed when ISIS attacked checkpoints and other positions in the central Homs and Hama provinces, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP “most of the dead, around 50, fell in the Hama countryside.”
Several militants were also killed when clashes broke out, he added without giving a toll.
The regime controls most of Homs and Hama.
“ISIS has faced setbacks recently in the provinces of Aleppo and Raqa and in Hasakeh in confrontations with Kurds on the one hand and regime forces on the other, and are now trying to score military points, even limited ones, to offset their losses,” said Abdel Rahman.
Activists also reported shelling from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's Al-Mashad neighborhood on Friday, according to Reuters news agency. The causalities from this attack were yet to be reported.
Separately, a suicide bomber struck at Syria’s Kurdish minority on Friday, killing more than 33 people as they celebrated Kurdish New Year in Hasakeh, northeast Syria.
Five children and many women were among the dead, the Observatory said.
“33 people were killed in the suicide attack in Hasakeh today, including five children. Many women were among the dead,” Abdel Rahman said.
The victims had gathered for a celebration on the eve of Nowruz, Kurdish New Year.
Dozens more were injured in the blast and the death toll may rise, the monitor added.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Abdel Rahman said the suicide bomber could have been a member of ISIS.
He said a second bomb exploded at another Nowruz celebration, wounding dozens of people.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the “heinous” attacks.
“Initial reports suggest that two separate bombings killed and injured up to 100 persons, including women and children,” the U.N. secretary general said in a statement following the attacks.
“These heinous attacks took place during a holiday that is customarily a time for Kurdish communities to come together to share their hopes for the new year.”
Ban said he “takes note” of the allegations that IS jihadists were behind the attack, and condemned the militant group.
“The terrorist organization's despicable agenda includes efforts to incite sectarian and ethnic division among Syria's diverse communities. It must not be allowed to succeed,” he said.
Also on Friday, Syrian state news agency SANA reported a “terrorist” attack in the center of Hasakeh that killed and wounded “many civilians” and damaged homes, shops and cars.
Hasakeh is a strategic province near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Turkey.
ISIS controls several parts of the province while fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) hold the provincial capital, which is also called Hasakeh.
The YPG are sworn enemies of ISIS, which they expelled from the border town of Kobane in January after four months of fierce fighting with help from allied air strikes.
The overall commander of the Asayish, or Kurdish security forces, Joan Ibrahim, said “the crime that occurred today in Hasakeh will not pass without retribution”, YPG said on one of its Facebook pages.
[With AFP and Reuters]