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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 August 2018

Six killed in air strikes in southern Syria

The Damascus regime has been pounding Quneitra since Sunday

Fire from fighting is seen from Quneitra, Syria on July 16, 2018. Reuters
Fire from fighting is seen from Quneitra, Syria on July 16, 2018. Reuters

At least six civilians were killed in air strikes on Tuesday in a sensitive southwestern province of Syria that borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a UK-based war monitor said, as dozens of people walked from Syrian refugee encampments to Israel's frontier fence.

The Damascus regime has been pounding Quneitra since Sunday in a bid to retake the area from rebels, after seizing back most of the neighbouring governorate of Deraa.

"Six civilians including two women and three children were killed in air strikes near Ain Al Tina" on Quneitra's border with Deraa province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It was not immediately clear whether the strikes were carried out by the regime or its Russian ally.

The monitor determines who carried out strikes based on the type of aircraft and munitions used, locations and flight patterns.

In the west of the adjacent province of Deraa, Russian air raids killed one civilian near the village of Al Aliya, it said.

An Israeli soldier speaks over a megaphone to people standing next to the border fence between Israel and Syria. Reuters
An Israeli soldier speaks over a megaphone to people standing next to the border fence between Israel and Syria. Reuters

Dozens of people walked on Tuesday from Syrian refugee encampments on the Golan Heights to Israel's nearby frontier fence. They stopped about 200 metres away and were ordered by an Israeli soldier to turn back.

"You are on the border of the State of Israel. Go back, we don't want to hurt you," the soldier shouted in Arabic through a loudspeaker at the crowd, live Reuters TV footage showed.

Some of those walking were waving white cloths, as the Syrian army presses the Russian-backed offensive against rebels in the area.

"Since Tuesday morning, heavy Russian air strikes and barrel bombs dropped by the regime have been targeting an area straddling Quneitra and Deraa," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, a group led by Syria's former Al Qaeda affiliate, is present in that area, he said.

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HTS is not included in a ceasefire between regime and rebels in Deraa announced earlier this month, which has allowed the regime to retake control of more than 90 per cent of the province.

President Bashar Al Assad's regime has advanced in Deraa thanks to a deadly bombardment campaign since June 19, along with Russia-brokered deals between opposition fighters and the regime.

In Quneitra on Monday, rebels in at least five towns raised the national flag, seeking a similar agreement with the regime, Mr Abdel Rahman said.

"Rebel factions in these towns have stopped fighting to avoid bombardment and destruction," he said.

In two days since Sunday, at least 43 regime fighters have been killed in both Deraa and Quneitra, while 48 extremists and rebels have lost their lives, the Observatory said.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by Syria's war since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

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