CAIRO, Feb 17 (Reuters) – At least 53 civilians were killed in an attack in Syria’s central desert province of Homs, state media reported on Friday, blaming jihadist militant group Islamic State.
The bodies of all victims taken to the Palmyra state hospital had gunshot wounds to the head, state news agency SANA cited the hospital’s head as saying.
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.
Five people who were wounded were transferred to another hospital. One of the survivors told SANA that IS had burned their cars.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
IS once controlled vast swathes of territory there, losing its hold on land in separate offensives by U.S.-backed fighters, government forces backed by Russia, regional militants and Turkish-sponsored rebels.
It now uses sleeper cells to wage hit-and-run attacks in 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 their territory.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam, Ahmed Tolba, Maya Gebeily and Suleiman al-Khalidi; Writing by Alaa Swilam; Editing by Chris Reese and John Stonestreet)