The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) unleashed suicide blasts and gunfire on Wednesday (July 25) in a rare onslaught on a southern Syrian city, officials and a monitor said, killing more than 200 people and underscoring the militant group's ability to strike despite losing most of its territory.
A mass funeral was held in the city of Sweida on Thursday where men gathered in a hall to pay their respects to the dead. But repeated attacks by both Syrian government forces and US -backed Kurdish fighters have slowly pushed them back until their territory is a fraction of what it once was.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that 302 people, including 135 civilians, were killed.
The bombings were apparently timed to coincide with attacks by a militant group linked to IS on a number of villages in the province, also called Sweida.
Ariel Schalit Smoke and explosions from the fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels in southern Syria as seen from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
The Syrian army has been relentlessly striking IS positions in the areas of Yarmouk basin in the western countryside of Daraa near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Observatory said government forces battled jihadists who stormed the villages from an IS pocket northeast of the city.More news: Thomas thrives as Froome fades
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One suicide bomber blew himself in a vegetable market as vendors were arriving to sell their produce while others were killed before they could detonate their bombs on a hospital in attacks that has sent shockwaves across the community.
Ahed Mrad, a journalist from Sweida, said the attacks took place nearly simultaneously between 3:50 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.
The jihadists captured at least three of the seven villages it targeted but clashes were ongoing Wednesday, the Observatory said. The Islamic State (IS) terror organisation is believed to be behind the violence.
The attacks also killed 94 regime fighters, most of whom were residents who had picked up weapons to defend their villages as well as 30 ISIS fighters, including the attackers.
A day earlier, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shot down a Syrian fighter jet that breached Israeli airspace on Tuesday afternoon, a claim contradicted by Damascus which accused the IDF of firing at one of its warplanes as it carried out operations against jihadists over Syrian territory.