A woman holds a sign that reads, ‘Killer USA, killer Russia get out of Syria,’ as activists protest in Ankara on Saturday. Agence France-Presse
At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and air strikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.
The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by militants and allied rebels earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
Syrian regime air strikes killed nine jihadists and rebel fighters, the war monitor said.
Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.
In neighbouring Idlib, regime air strikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.
Syrian state media reported later that an explosion was heard in a military area in Dummar, a northwestern suburb of the capital Damascus. Syrian state TV said the blast was the result of an explosion in an arms depot that triggered some fires in nearby brush.
“An ammunition depot for the Syrian army in western Damascus exploded after a fire in nearby fields started spreading,” state news agency SANA said, citing a military source.
The ammunition depot was located in a military zone in Mashrou Dummar, a western suburb, SANA reported. But in a later statement SANA quoted a military source as saying that “investigations are still underway to determine the cause” of the blast.
The explosion wounded eight pro-government fighters, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“It remains unclear if the explosion was deliberate or a result of the fires in the area,” the war monitor said.
It cited eye-witness accounts claiming rockets were seen flying over the area.
In northwest Syria, fighting intensified as government forces pressed their offensive toward Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country’s lengthy civil war.