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Regime ammo sites hit in Homs, death toll rising and Israel suspected

August 1, 2013

By Jacob Wirtschafter and Bassam al-Hamidi

AMMAN: Two enormous explosions targeting Syrian regime ammunitions depots went off in a predominantly Alawite district in Homs on Thursday with hundreds estimated dead due to chemical weapons believed to have been stored there.

The blasts in Wadi al-Dahab at 2pm local time were captured on video, with the second generating a fireball followed by a mushroom-shaped cloud. Plumes of smoke were clearly visible throughout Syria’s third largest city.

Pro-revolution digital journalist captures massive Homs weapons depot explosion which rocked a predominately Alawite section of the city Thursday afternoon- Video courtesy of Bab al-Sibaa Media Office.

"I haven't seen anything like this in my life," exclaims the citizen journalist who filmed the dual attacks. "Wadi al-Dahab is gone, it's completely leveled now," he says with wonder.

Rival rebel factions raced to claim responsibility for an attack, taking credit for the operation that seemed to require capabilities well beyond the reach of the rebels given the scale and scope of the attack, the strict blockade in and around Homs and the lack of any precedent attacks on the heavily protected district of Wadi al-Dahab.

Lewa al Haq, part of the Syrian Islamic Front, also claimed they carried out the operation in a statement released on their Facebook page.

 "The latest updates from regime neighborhoods say it was an Israeli raid targeting the Syrian Army's ammunition warehouses," said Mahmud al-Lous, an independent citizen activist.

"We are hearing that bad smells are spreading in the air, and believe they are poison gases that exploded in the ammunition warehouse," added al-Lous, who said that 190 were killed and hundreds more injured from the attack, a claim that could not be verified.

"These gases were prepared to kill our families in the blockaded [rebel-held districts] of Homs," al-Lous said.

“We fear that it might be chemical weapons,” said Suhaib al-Ali, spokesmand for the FSA’s Joint Staff Command in Homs.

“The explosion was terrible and huge, it wasn't a regular weapons explosion only,” al-Ali said. “We warned more than once that regime is using neighborhoods that support it as warehouses for ammunition and also as bases for shabiha and Hezbollah,” said al-Ali, adding that regime forces are evacuating people from Wadi al-Dahab and surrounding areas and moving them to other neighborhoods.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors fighting in Syria, reported that 160 were killed and injured in the explosions. Reuters reported from Amman that many were killed as chemical gases were reportedly released due to the explosions.

Homs 24 News, a media outlet with ties to the Free Syrian Army, reported that the mainstream rebel group hit the government’s ammunitions storage facilities with Grad missiles that were confiscated from the regime earlier in the war.

Rebel supporter Khudair Khashfa, whose home in Dar al-Kabira is less than 2km form the site of Thursday's explosions, dismisses claims the attack was launched by Israel.

“Let them say it is Israel -we don't have problem with that,” said Khanafa, who claims that Liwa al-Haq was behind the operation and a video will be released to prove it