Five children and 31 women were among the dead, Syria’s state-run news agency SANA reported.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. In an earlier statement, the defense ministry on Thursday blamed “terrorist organizations supported by well-known international parties.” Among those with critical injuries were families invited to the ceremony as well as graduating students, it said.
The Syrian armed forces said the attack was “unprecedented,” and vowed to respond “with full force and determination, warning that those who planned and executed the attack “will pay dearly.”
The ancient city of Homs, once known as the capital of the Syrian revolution, was the site of intense battles between regime forces and opposition fighters seeking to unseat President Bashar Al Assad in 2012. The city fell to the regime in 2014, when rebels left it after a two-year siege.
The Syrian president now controls most of the country, with the exception of a northern strip held by various rebel factions, including Kurdish groups.
Located in the agricultural heartland of Syria, the western city had long been a transport and commercial hub of vital strategic importance. The road through Homs connects the capital, Damascus, in the south, to Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, in the north.
On Thursday, civil defense group the White Helmets, comprised of nearly 3,000 volunteers working to save lives in Syria, said the Syrian regime forces launched “systematic” attacks on civilians in northwestern Syria, killing at least 12 people and injuring 49.
Among the 49 injured civilians were 12 children and 11 women, according to the group.
Syria has been carrying out airstrikes routinely in the area against what the regime calls terrorists.
Heavy artillery shells and rocket launchers were unleashed upon more than 15 cities, towns, and villages across Idlib and the Aleppo countryside in northwest Syria. Notably, markets, schools, public facilities, and humanitarian workers were targeted in these attacks, the White Helmets said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the group reported airstrikes targeting a school in Sarmeen city in the eastern countryside of Idlib, resulting in the death of one child and injuries to six civilians, including three girls – with one being an infant – and two women.
Northwest Syria has witnessed its third consecutive day of deadly bombardment, the group said on Thursday.
Turkey strikes Kurdish targets in Syria
Meanwhile, at least 11 people were killed on the other side of the country Thursday by Turkish airstrikes targeting Kurdish-controlled areas of northeastern Syria, according to a statement by Kurdish security forces in the region.
“The Turkish state launched on Thursday a series of attacks on our regions with more than 15 drones penetrating the airspace of northeastern Syria, and again targeted many positions, infrastructure, service facilities, and gas and oil stations, resulting in death and injuries. Its aggression also affected areas populated by civilians,” said Asayish, the Kurdish internal security force.
Turkey’s military has launched a series of airstrikes against Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq following a deadly bombing in the Turkish capital on Sunday. The attack in Ankara was claimed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has carried out a decades-long insurgency against the government and is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.
In a separate incident, a US fighter jet shot down an armed Turkish drone in Syria that was operating near US military personnel and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), officials familiar with the incident told CNN Thursday.
The backbone of the SDF is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey says is a wing of the PKK.
The US assessed the armed drone as a potential threat, and issued more than a dozen warnings before shooting it down, the officials said, adding that several drones made repeated approaches toward US troop positions.
It is unclear how the warnings were issued. There were no reports of US casualties, an official said.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said that the drone didn’t belong to the Turkish armed forces, Reuters reported. CNN has reached out to the Turkish government for comment.
CNN’s Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann contributed to this report