Syrian rebels have seized an important town on a main highway between Damascus and the south in Daraa province on the border with Jordan, a UK-based watchdog says.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Friday that 10 civilians, including a child, were killed in fighting for Dael, the latest to be seized by the rebels over the past 24 hours.
“Rebels seized control of Dael after destroying the three army checkpoints at the entrances to the town,” SOHR said. “The town is located on a main road linking Daraa to Damascus.”
At least 15 rebels and a media activist working with the rebels were also killed, along with 12 loyalist troops, SOHR added.
“Large swathes of Daraa [province] are now under rebel control. Their advance in the south is escalating,” Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR’s director, told the AFP news agency.
“The rebels are inching closer to the provincial capital, and several towns and villages are now out of army hands. Daraa city is cut off almost completely from Damascus.”
Alarm in parliament
The capture of Dael came a day after a loyalist MP from the province raised the alarm in parliament.
Walid al-Zohbi said the rebels were advancing “in all towns and villages in Daraa province, which is torn from east to west after the army withdrew from many positions”.
“They may have pulled out for tactical reasons, we don’t know. But at any rate, terrorists from Al-Nusra Front have taken their place,” he added of a group with roots in Iraq which is blacklisted by Washington as a “terrorist” organisation.
On Sunday, SOHR reported that the rebels had seized a swathe of land stretching 25km east to west along the Jordanian border to the sensitive ceasefire line between Syria and Israel.
On the outskirts of Damascus, new violence erupted in several districts including Qaboon and Yarmuk, SOHR said.
It came after at least 15 people – 14 students and a child – were killed in a mortar attack on Damascus University on Thursday, SOHR and state media reported.
They were among at least 150 people killed nationwide – 52 civilians, 61 rebels and 37 soldiers, according to SOHR figures.
In all, more than 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, the UN says.