BEIRUT: A munitions blast killed 31 regime and allied forces at a military airport in central Syria on Saturday, a war monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain and relies on a network of sources on the ground, said it was unclear what had caused the deadly explosion at the Shayrat Airbase in Homs province.
But state news agency SANA reported that a “technical fault during the transport of expired ammunition” had killed an unspecified number of victims.
The Shayrat Airbase is one of the regime’s most significant installations in the center of the country.
Iranian fighters — who support the regime in Syria’s ongoing civil war — are based there, according to the Observatory.
In 2017, US airstrikes hit the base in response to a suspected sarin gas attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhun in northwest Syria that killed more than 80 people.
According to the Pentagon, US intelligence had established that the base was the launchpad for the alleged chemical attack.
The opposition dominating Idlib warned that regime violations would effectively “nullify” the cease-fire, which Damascus said will depend on rebel backer Turkey implementing a buffer zone in the area.
Most of Idlib province and parts of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia are controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.
The region is supposed to be protected from a massive government offensive by a Turkish-Russian deal struck in September in the Russian resort of Sochi.
On Thursday, a new ceasefire went into effect as Syria peace talks resumed in Kazakhstan between Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,00 people since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.