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Middle East

Syrian forces reportedly ambush rebels

Activists also say at least 13 members of a family executed by pro-government forces in the Sunni village of Bayda.

Last Modified: 21 Jul 2013 20:01
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have ambushed rebels in a strategic suburb near the capital Damascus, killing at least 49 people, a pro-opposition monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the opposition fighters had been killed on Sunday near Adra, a town that rebels have been fighting to recapture from Assad's forces.

It lies on a route that the rebels had been using to smuggle weapons into Damascus until the army captured it a few months ago.

Forces loyal to Assad have also killed at least 13 members of a family in the Sunni Muslim village of Bayda, according to activists.

The Observatory said four women and six children were among those killed on Sunday in the coastal village.

"A relative came to look for them today and found the men shot outside. The women and children's bodies were inside a room of the house and residents in the area said some of the bodies were burned," Rami Abdelrahman, head of the London-based Observatory, said.

In May, pro-Assad armed groups killed more than 50 residents of Bayda and over 60 locals in the nearby town of Baniyas. In those killings, some bodies, many of them children, were found burned and mutilated.

Bayda is part of a small pocket of Sunni Muslims in the Mediterranean province of Tartous, a stronghold for Assad's own minority Alawite sect.

The two-year-old uprising against four decades of Assad family rule has been led by Syria's Sunni majority.

Sectarian clashes and alleged massacres have become increasingly common in a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people, according to the Observatory.

The killings in Bayda came a day after a rare eruption of clashes was reported in the area between Assad's forces and the rebels in the coastal enclave.

The British-based Observatory, which has a network of activists across Syria, said all the victims had been executed.

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