BEIRUT (Reuters) – Intense clashes in southern Syria have killed scores of pro-government and insurgent fighters in the past week, a group monitoring Syria’s war said on Sunday, forecasting even fiercer violence to come as the weather clears.
Syria’s army and allied combatants from Lebanon’s Hezbollah launched a large-scale offensive in the region last week against insurgent groups including Al-Qaeda’s Syria wing Nusra Front and non-radical rebels.
The battle is significant because it is one of the last areas where mainstream rebels opposing President Bashar al-Assad have a foothold. Such groups have lost ground to hardline militants in the four-year conflict.
More than 50 rebels have been killed in the fighting, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Rami Abdulrahman said 43 members of the Syrian army and allied groups had also died, including 12 officers.
“Now the weather is better there will be Syrian air strikes. With the air strikes they will move forward,” he said.
Syrian state media and Hezbollah’s al-Manar channel have reported on the battles in the south during the week, saying the army had been reclaiming territory from “terrorists”.
State media have said that a number of enemy fighters had been killed. Syrian officials were not immediately available for comment on Sunday.
Abdulrahman, who tracks the war using sources on the ground, said around 5,000 pro-government troops were taking part in the offensive which aims to take a triangle of rebel-held land from rural areas southwest of Damascus to Deraa city to Quneitra.
He said that 10 members on the government side had been executed after being accused of passing information to the enemy. He also said Nusra Front fighters had been killed.