Fighting in southern Syria following bombing kills 17: War monitor

A blast that killed eight children on Saturday in al-Sanamayn led to clashes between rival groups in Deraa, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

map of al-Sanamayn in Deraa, Syria
(Al Jazeera)

A war monitor has said at least 17 people were killed in southern Syria’s Deraa province in violence triggered by an explosion a day earlier that killed a group of children.

Deraa was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s, rule but it returned to government control in 2018 under a ceasefire deal backed by Russia.

The province has since been plagued by violence, with frequent clashes and precarious living conditions.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Sunday that an armed group led by a figure who previously worked for a Syrian state security agency had been accused by a rival group of planting an explosive device that went off on Saturday in the city of al-Sanamayn, killing eight children.

On Sunday, a rival armed group led by a former member of ISIL (ISIS) who now works for military intelligence stormed part of al-Sanamayn and the two groups began clashing, the monitor said.

The battle left 17 dead, among them a former ISIL member, 12 fighters, and a civilian killed by a stray bullet, SOHR said.

The monitor, which added that clashes were ongoing on Sunday afternoon, had reported 12 dead in a previous toll. Syrian state media did not immediately report the clashes.

Blast blamed on ‘terrorists’

Official news agency SANA, quoting a police source, gave a different toll for Saturday’s explosion, saying seven children were killed in the blast, which it blamed on “terrorists”.

Attacks, some claimed by ISIL, regularly occur in Deraa province, as well as armed clashes and assassinations of government supporters, former opposition figures and civilians working for the government.

Former rebels in the province who accepted the 2018 ceasefire deal sponsored by Russia – a key ally of Damascus – were able to keep their light weapons.

In late January, SOHR said a local leader and seven other members of an ISIL affiliate were killed in clashes with local factions in the province.

The war in Syria, which erupted in 2011 after the government repressed peaceful pro-democracy protests, has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions, and ravaged the country’s economy and infrastructure.

Source: News Agencies