More than 160 people, most of them opposition fighters, have been killed in nine days of clashes between rebel forces and Daesh-linked militants in the Syrian province of Daraa, reports and a war monitor said on Wednesday.
The fighting started after Daesh-linked Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid members captured several villages from rebel-controlled areas in the southern province forcing hundreds of civilians to flee their homes for refuge in neighbouring towns.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) listed the casualties so far as 11 civilians, 104 opposition rebels and 48 Jaish Khalid members.
SOHR also reported that regime forces have bombed rebel-held neighbourhoods east of Damascus. Rebel footage showed regime forces launching surface-to-surface missiles that targetted Barzah and Qaboun neighbourhoods.
White Helmets suffer 164th casualty
On Tuesday, the Syrian search and rescue group known as the 'White Helmets' said regime artillery fire in the city of Homs killed volunteer Mohammad Dabdoub, who was serving in al-Waer neighbourhood, the opposition's last foothold in Homs.
Mourning the loss of our hero Mohammad, he & his team were targeted with artillery bombardment while rescuing civilians in AlWaer-Homs city. pic.twitter.com/P83ZpgQzNi
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) February 28, 2017
Dabdoub is the 164th White Helmets' rescuer killed in the six-year war that began after anti-Assad pro-democracy protesters took to the streets in 2011. Repression of the demonstrations and popular reaction triggered the civil war in Syria that has since killed some 400,000 people, made more than half the country's population homeless, and created the world's worst refugee crisis since World War II.
The volunteer civil defence organisation was honoured with an Oscar on Sunday when the Netflix documentary, 'The White Helmets', about the group's harrowing mission, won Best Documentary Short.
Russian raids cause mass casualties
In a separate report, war monitor SOHR said that Russian air strikes in the last 17 months have resulted in the deaths of 4,840 civilians across Syria.
It said that the air strikes also killed 3,209 Daesh militants and 3,265 fighters of several opposition rebel groups in Syria.