DAMASCUS, (Xinhua): The Syrian troops on Friday killed 54 rebel fighters of al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front in southern and northern parts of the country, when another al-Qaida-affiliated group captured a border town, reports said.
The army killed 20 fighters, including some leaders, of the Nusra Front by shelling rebel-held Hraitan town in the northern province of Aleppo, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV reported, adding that another seven were killed in the Damascus suburb of Daraya in similar shelling.
The state-run SANA news agency said that 23 rebel fighters were killed and 60 others wounded Friday while trying to attack a military checkpoint at the Southern Highway in Damascus.
It said the army killed another four rebels in the Damascus eastern suburb of Jobar.
Meanwhile, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL) took control of the northern town of Atama Friday, after dislodging another Islamic rebel group from the town bordering Turkey, according to the TV report.
Activists also reported the ISIL’s capture of Atama, which is on a main weapon smuggling route for weapons and armed rebels from Turkey to join the fight alongside Syrian rebels.
The recent development has signaled the advancement of the Islamic groups against other moderate rebel groups, which have been largely marginalized in recent months.
In the same context, around six Islamic rebel factions united under the name of the Islam Front in a bid to strengthen their power in the country’s long-standing conflict.
On the northern outskirts of Damascus, meanwhile, intense clashes continued Friday in the al-Qalamoun Mountains, namely in the Nabek town, which has been subject to heavy shelling by the government troops against rebel-held positions inside the town.
The rebels have fled to Nabek and Deir Attieh towns following the Syrian troops’ recapture of the key town of Qara, in al- Qalamoun, which constitutes the northern gate of Damascus.
The Syrian troops have unleashed a wide-scale operation in al- Qalamoun to push the rebels away from the countryside of the capital.
Winning the decisive battle in al-Qalamoun is crucial for the Syrian troops as ridding the areas of rebels in the mountains would secure the road that connects Damascus in the south with central and northern Syria and cut off the rebels’ supply lines from neighboring Lebanon.
Editor: Mu Xuequan