Syrian rebels carried out a large-scale attack in the al-Nuzha district of the hotly-contested city of Homs on Thursday, hitting a weapons depot in the government-held city. At least 40 people were killed in the subsequent explosion, human rights groups reported.
Government spokesmen reported a much lower casualty figure, saying as few as six people were killed.
Rebel groups fired rockets at Homs immediately prior to the blast. It was not immediately clear if the weapons depot was hit by rockets, or targeted in a bombing.
The blast sent a massive fireball into the sky. Residents reported that nearby buildings shook at the power of the blasts.
Syrian human rights groups reported that at least 120 people were wounded in the explosions. Some are in critical condition.
The bombing follows several significant losses for the rebels. Just hours earlier in the day, President Bashar Assad had made a rare trip outside Damascus, in a display of confidence as his army retakes cities and districts formerly held by rebel fighters.
Assad visited the town of Dayara, just south of Damascus, which was formerly held by rebels. He praised the Syrian soldiers stationed there for their “steadfastness and ability to overcome… in the face of the fiercest barbaric war modern history has ever witnessed.”
In the last week, the Syrian army, reinforced by Hizbullah fighters, managed to conquer the Al Khalidi district of Homs where rebels had barricaded themselves, and capture the Khalid bin al Walid mosque, which had previously been a stronghold for opposition forces.