Over 50 killed in Syria bomb

A civilian shows her damaged house in the Sheikh Saeed district, near a cement factory in Aleppo yesterday. Photograph: Zain Karam/Reuters

A civilian shows her damaged house in the Sheikh Saeed district, near a cement factory in Aleppo yesterday. Photograph: Zain Karam/Reuters

Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 00:00

More than 50 workers at a military factory in central Syria were killed in a bombing earlier this week, an opposition watchdog which monitors violence in Syria said today.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 54 people died in Wednesday's explosion which struck their bus as they were preparing to return home at the end of their shift, and the number could rise further.

The Observatory said 11 of the victims from the bombing in Buraq, about 10 km (six miles) south of the city of Hama, were women. The workers were from cities of Homs, Hama and the town of Salamiyah.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing, which angered many Syrian activists, who blamed Islamist hardliners for the attack. Some described it as "terrorist" attack which targeted civilians.

"They are workers, they are civilians. Some people need to work to feed their families. This does not make them criminals," said an activist from Hama province who declined to be named.

The Islamist Nusra Front last month said it was behind a car bombing which killed 42 people, including women and children in Salamiyah. The target of that attack was a pro-government militia, they said. Activists in Salamiyah posted pictures of children and young people who were killed in the attack.

About 5,000 refugees are fleeing Syria each day, seeking safe haven in neighbouring countries, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

"This is a full-on crisis," Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news briefing in Geneva. "There was a huge increase in January alone, we're talking about a 25 per cent increase in registered refugee numbers over a single month."

About 150,000 Syrians poured across Syria's borders in January, most into Jordan and Lebanon which have seen a massive increase in the inflow.

Since the conflict began two years ago, more than 787,000 Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting processing in the region, mainly in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. The total includes 15,000 in Egypt, where the UN's World Food Programme began this week to distribute food vouchers.

"We are working around the clock to keep up with the needs and demands of the refugees," UNHCR spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes said.

The UNHCR, in a nearly $1 billion funding appeal in mid-December, forecast that there could be up to a million Syrian refugees by the end of June.

"At the rate that refugees are arriving, we can expect to surpass the one million mark months before," Ms Wilkes said.

Turkey has spent more than $600 million sheltering refugees from the conflict.