At least eight anti-terror fighters have been killed in fierce fighting with Takfiri militants in Syria’s southern province of Dara’a, a UK-based monitoring group says.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claimed on Thursday that the militants also captured more than 15 members of the pro-government militias in Dara’a's western and eastern countrysides.
There has been no official Syrian response to the claim by the observatory which is believed to be sympathetic and close to Kurdish militants.
The observatory said fighting started when government forces fired artillery shells towards militant hideouts during a ground offensive in the militant-riddled region.
Hospital, residential neighborhood attacked
Meanwhile, Syrian official news agency (SANA) said a hospital and several residential neighborhoods were targeted in an attack by militants on government-held areas in Dara’a city.
Government sources said two civilians, including a woman and her child, were killed when the foreign-backed militants targeted the provincial capital with mortar shells. Three others were also injured.
This comes after the Syrian military launched an offensive on terrorist hideouts in Dara’a.
The Damascus government says the offensive was in response to militants’ refusal to surrender under a deal reached in 2018.
The Syrian army liberated the southern province three years ago, but some areas still remain under militants’ control.
Syria's al-Watan newspaper has called the developments the "start of a military operation against the hideouts of terrorists who thwarted a reconciliation deal".
The recapture of Dara'a is highly important because it borders the occupied Golan Heights which Israel has used to treat wounded militants fighting the Syrian government since 2011.
The territory's return to Syrian government control could cut the much-reported collaboration between Israel and the militants and accordingly deal a blow to Tel Aviv's plans to annex the Golan Heights.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The government says Western countries and their regional allies are aiding terror outfits.
The US has deployed soldiers and military equipment in Syria without any authorization from Damascus or the UN.
Washington has long been collaborating with anti-Damascus militants and plundering Syria’s resources, ignoring repeated calls by Damascus to end its illegal occupation of the country.
In recent years, Syrian troops have made significant advances against remaining pockets of land held by militants across the Arab country.