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Militants kill, injure more than 50 pro-Assad troops near Aleppo, Syria

About 17 people were meanwhile injured in suspected Russian airstrikes in the vicinity of Palmyra, in Syria's Homs province.

By Fred Lambert
Militants kill, injure more than 50 pro-Assad troops near Aleppo, Syria
A rebel fighter stands on a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Syria, on Sept. 12, 2012. On Sunday, rebel forces killed at least 12 pro-Assad troops during clashes west of Aleppo city, according to activists. Since early October, the Syrian military, backed by Russian airstrikes, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Iranian troops, has attempted to reverse gains made by rebel forces across the country earlier in the year. File photo by Ahmad Deeb/UPI | License Photo

ALEPPO, Syria, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Militants in northwestern Syria's Aleppo province killed at least 12 troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and injured another 45 during an assault west of the provincial capital on Sunday, activists said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the casualties were a mixture of Syrian military soldiers, volunteers with the National Defense Forces, members of the al-Quds al-Filastini Brigade and fighters with Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

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Two militants with an alliance of Arab rebel groups in the region, including al-Qaida's Nusra Front, were killed in the clashes, which occurred near the al-Rashedin neighborhood on the western outskirts of Aleppo city, SOHR said.

The Syrian military, backed by Russian airstrikes, Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters, has since early last month conducted a series of countrywide counter-attacks in a bid to regain territories lost to rebel forces earlier in the year.

Pro-Assad forces last week linked up with fellow troops at the Kuwairis air base, east of Aleppo, ending months of siege by militants with the Islamic State.

In Homs province, to the south, the Syrian military is attacking in several directions to re-capture the town of Maheen, which IS forces seized early this month after at least 50 government troops and a number of IS fighters were killed.

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SOHR reported at least 17 people were injured Sunday during about 40 suspected Russian airstrikes in and around the ancient ruins of Palmyra, which IS forces captured in May.

Russia's Ministry of Defense said it performed 107 combat sorties Wednesday and Thursday, engaging 289 militant positions across Syria, including in the Aleppo and Homs provinces.

In Aleppo, the ministry said, airstrikes destroyed two tanks, three armored vehicles and four machine-gun mounted trucks used by Nusra Front militants, while in Homs, the strikes eliminated mortars, an ammunition depot and fortifications used by IS forces.

In the Deir Ezzor province, in eastern Syria, Russian airstrikes targeted an IS convoy carrying fuel destined for militant forces located in Iraq. Regime forces earlier this month reportedly killed at least 58 IS fighters during clashes in the province.

Russia has since late September conducted airstrikes in Syria on behalf of Assad, asserting that it is targeting IS militants and other terrorist forces. Western leaders and activists, however, accuse Moscow of mainly attacking moderate opposition forces in a bid to prop up Assad, its regional ally.

Russia's air campaign is being conducted independently of the United States, which has since September 2014 led an international bombing coalition against IS -- also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL.

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U.S. Central Command on Friday said coalition forces the previous day conducted eight airstrikes against IS militants in Syria, including in Raqqa, the group's self-proclaimed capital.

Sunday's developments coincided with French warplanes conducting at least 20 airstrikes against IS positions in Raqqa after the group claimed responsibility for Friday night terrorist attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people.

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