Syrians gather at the scene of an explosion outside Aleppo University, between the university dormitories and the architecture faculty. AFP PHOTO
DAMASCUS: Twin blasts ripped through university buildings in Syria’s second city Aleppo, killing at least 87people and wounding scores more, on the first day of exams for students.
Regime forces and rebels blamed each other for the carnage, in a government-controlled area of the battleground northern city.
While opposition activists said that government jets had carried out an air strike, a military official said ground-to-air missiles fired by rebels had fallen short.
State news agency SANA said: “terrorists launched two rockets” at the campus.
As well as students, the university campus houses some 30,000 people who have fled parts of the city ravaged by fighting since rebels seized many neighborhoods in July. Some of those displaced people were among the casualties SANA reported, citing an official source.
Video footage posted online by students showed tearful survivors taking refuge in a campus building.
The explosions struck an area near the university dormitories and the architecture faculty, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding “the nature of the explosions is still unclear.
It also said that dozens of people had been killed or wounded when Syrian troops stormed rebel positions near a military academy in the central province of Homs on Tuesday.
The Syrian Revolution General Council accused regime forces of having “committed a massacre” there, saying “more than 24 people were summarily executed and their homes and bodies were burned”.
The latest violence came as Russia rejected as “counterproductive” Swiss-led efforts at the United Nations Security Council to seek prosecution of key figures in Assad’s regime before the International Criminal Court.
Only the Security Council has the right to refer the Syria case to the Hague-based court because Syria is not an ICC member.
Russia, a traditional Syrian ally, has vetoed three prior council resolutions sanctioning Assad. It said on Tuesday that a war crimes referral could only escalate the crisis.
Moscow also once again reaffirmed its support for a Syrian transition plan agreed by world powers in June that was never implemented because of the fighting.
It called for the quick creation of an interim government with full powers, but it never assigned a clear role for Assad—and that issue has been interpreted differently by Russia and the West.
Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for talks with Damascus’s key regional ally, state television reported.
The Fars news agency said the two sides would discuss “Assad’s three-step plan” for the political future, which he presented on January 6.
The opposition and Western governments rejected Assad’s plan, saying it was detached from reality. It offered dialogue but only with opposition groups he deemed acceptable, not “terrorists” led by foreigners.