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Clashes kill more than 80 fighters in Syria

Updated July 12, 2019

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Jisr al-Shughur: Syrian civil defence workers, also known as White Helmets, rush to a street that was hit by Syrian government’s air strikes on Thursday. — AP
Jisr al-Shughur: Syrian civil defence workers, also known as White Helmets, rush to a street that was hit by Syrian government’s air strikes on Thursday. — AP

BEIRUT: More than 80 fighters were killed in clashes on Thursday between regime and jihadist-led forces in northwest Syria, as violence raged on the edge of an opposition bastion despite a September truce deal.

In nearby Afrin, a car bombing killed 13 people in the latest violence to hit the city that Turkey-backed rebels seized last year from Kurdish fighters.

Syria’s civil war has killed a total of more than 370,000 people and spiralled into a complex conflict since starting in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

Clashes raged on Thursday in northern Hama after a small advance by jihadist-led forces overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Fighting and bombardment since the launch of the attack late Wednesday killed at least 46 regime forces and 36 jihadists and allied rebels, the Britain-based war monitor said.

“The fighting is ongoing as regime planes and artillery pound the area,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Elsewhere in Syria, eight civilians were among the 13 people killed in a car bomb near a checkpoint outside Afrin, the Observatory said.

Turkish troops and Syrian proxies took control of Afrin from Kurdish forces they consider “terrorists” in March last year after a two-month air and ground offensive.

Those killed also included four fighters. “Among the victims, at least six are originally from Eastern Ghouta,” a former rebel bastion near Damascus retaken by the regime last year, Abdel Rahman said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but a commander with a pro-Ankara faction accused Kurdish fighters.

Car bomb hits near church

QAMISHLI: A car bomb detonated near a church in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeast Syria on Thursday wounding several people, an AFP journalist and state media said.

The metal gate of the church was slightly dented by the blast, but the building otherwise emerged intact, the correspondent said.

There was no immediate claim for the attack, which Syrian state television said wounded 11 people and damaged nearby cars.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said only seven people were wounded, and that three among them were in critical condition.

Last month, a car bombing near Kurdish security offices in the same city wounded seven civilians, including a child, the Observatory said.

Syria’s Kurds have led the US-backed fight in the war-torn country against the Islamic State group, which continues to claim attacks despite its territorial defeat earlier this year.

These have included arson attacks on wheat fields and deadly car bombs.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2019