53 civilians killed in Syria attack

According to state media, at least 53 people were killed Friday in an attack in central Syria blamed on the Islamic State group. 

"Fifty-three citizens who were truffle hunting were killed during an IS terrorist attack southwest of the town of Al-Sokhna" east of Homs, according to state television. 
Walid Audi, the director of Palmyra Hospital, stated that 46 civilians and seven soldiers were killed. 

Audi told pro-government radio station Sham FM that their bodies had been "carried to the hospital following the ambush" that killed dozens. 

The attack was also reported earlier on Friday by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

In recent years, many people, including women and children, have been targeted while truffle hunting in Syria's central, northeastern, and eastern regions. 

Sixteen people, mostly civilians, were killed in a similar attack on foragers in the same area on Saturday, according to the Observatory, which relies on a large network of sources on the ground in Syria. 

The Observatory reported that dozens of others were kidnapped in the attack, and that 25 of them were released, but the fate of the others is unknown. 

In April 2021, the extremist group carried out a similar attack, kidnapping 19 people, mostly civilians, in Hama province's eastern countryside. 

Following a military onslaught backed by a US-led coalition in March 2019, the jihadists lost their last sliver of territory in Syria, and most of their fighters retreated to desert hideouts. 

They have since used such hideouts to ambush Kurdish-led forces and Syrian government troops, as well as to continue attacks in neighboring Iraq. 

Syrian and Russian helicopters continue to launch air strikes against IS hideouts in the desert.

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