Al-Nusra Front, other rebels capture strategic town near Aleppo
Rebel fighters from the Jaish al-Fatah (or Army of Conquest) brigades load ammunitions into a tank during clashes with Syrian pro-government forces near the village of Om al-Krameel, in Aleppo's southern countryside on May 5, 2016. (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)
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Islamist rebels seized on Friday a strategic Syrian town near the embattled city of Aleppo from regime forces, a monitoring group said.
Fighters from an Islamist coalition including the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front took control of the town of Khan Touman and nearby villages in the southern Aleppo region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The Islamists' progress followed an attack they started in the area late Wednesday, which sparked fierce clashes with regime forces, activists said.
At least 43 rebels and 30 regime soldiers were killed in the fighting, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
Khan Touman is strategically important because it is located near a highway linking Aleppo and the capital Damascus.
"With rebels' capture of Khan Touman, regime forces have lost a major defence line in the area of southern Aleppo," Rami Abdel-Rahman, the Observatory's head, told dpa.
The advance came a day after airstrikes hit a refugee camp in a rebel-held area in northern Syria, killing at least 30 people.
The camp is located in the northern Idlib province in an area controlled by al-Nusra Front, activists said.
"This does not justify for anyone to hit civilians, no matter where they are," Abdel-Rahman of the Observatory said.
The European Union condemned the strikes.
"Attacks on refugee camps are unacceptable and constitute a grave violation of international humanitarian law," the bloc said in a statement.
UN humanitarian affairs chief Stephen O'Brien said Thursday he was "horrified and sickened" by the attacks that targeted the camp, which shelters internally displaced Syrians near the Turkish border.
"If this obscene attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of a civilian structure, it could amount to a war crime," O'Brien said.
The identity of the warplanes that carried out the strikes was unknown.
Activists accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of responsibility.