BEIRUT -- An explosion killed up to 70 people in the Syrian city of Hama on Wednesday, many of them women and children, activists said.
It is still unclear what caused the explosion, which destroyed several residential buildings. Some activist groups have said it was a rocket attack or shelling by regime forces in the neighborhood of Mashaa Al-Tayyar.
Syrian state media said a "terrorist group" accidentally set off an explosive in a house used to make bombs, killing 16 people and injuring 12.
Video apparently shot moments after the explosion or attack shows a massive white cloud and debris rising over a large swath of the city.
In other videos shot in the aftermath, entire homes had been reduced to rubble and deep craters as men dug through the debris with their hands to search for survivors and bodies. The body of a young girl, blood covering her face and pink shirt, was pulled from the rubble and carried through the crowd.
One anti-government activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, said at least 13 children and 16 women were killed. More than a dozen members of one family were killed along with five members of a family that had fled from the nearby city of Homs, the group said.
Activists said many families had fled from Homs and were living in that neighborhood. One activist in Hama province, who did not want his name used, suggested the regime might have been targeting what it thought was a rebel-held area.
"It seems the regime thought that rebels had taken that district as a center for them. But rebels don't live inside the city,” the activist said. “We are killed in the ugliest ways.”
The deaths came two days after activists accused the government of a similar massacre when regime forces shelled one neighborhood and opened fire in others, killing more than 30 people. The day before, a small team of U.N. monitors visited the city. Activists and U.N. officials have said that the government is attacking areas in the wake of U.N. monitor visits.
-- Alexandra Sandels