Syrian forces kill 15 rebels in provincial showdown

Damascus, July 2 (IANS) Government forces gunned down 15 rebels in Syria’s southern province of Daraa in an ongoing military operation in the key province near Jordan, state-run news agency SANA said on Thursday.

A military unit carried out a “qualitative” operation in the town of Saida in the countryside of Daraa, killing 15 rebels and destroying a factory for manufacturing improvised explosive devices, said SANA.

At least 50 vehicles fitted with machine guns were also destroyed during the operation, SANA said.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the military operation in Saida involved warplanes and that at least 11 people were killed.

The London-based watchdog group said the slain people were “martyrs,” without specifying if they were civilians or combatants.

Saida is close to the Nasib border-crossing between Syria and Jordan. The crossing was captured by the rebels a couple of months ago, dealing a blow to government troops, according to Xinhua news agency.

Intense battles have been raging since a coalition of 51 rebel groups declared the commencement of the “Storm of the South” battle to drive out Syrian forces from government-controlled areas in Daraa.

The Syrian army is said to have repelled much of the attack, after receiving back-up forces from nearby bases.

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