Damascus loses 150 in `chemical arms` town battle: NGO
Beirut: At least 150 Syrian regime forces have been killed in Khan al-Assal, a town in Aleppo province at the centre of an alleged chemical weapons strike this year, monitors said on Friday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said that at least 10 people were reported killed in regime shelling of the northwestern province of Idlib.
The deaths in Khan al-Assal, northern Syria, came as the regime tried to recapture the town, which fell to rebel fighters on Monday.
More than 50 of those killed were executed by rebels after the town fell, with the rest having died in fighting, the Observatory said, adding that 30 of the dead were officers.
Rebels had for months tried to take Khan al-Assal, a strategically located town in the west of Aleppo province. They finally seized the town on Monday but fighting raged on its edges the next day, said the Observatory.
Amateur video filmed by rebels and distributed by the Observatory showed the bodies of dozens of regime forces in a building that had been the site of a battle.
The mainstream rebel Ninth Division claimed its fighters took Khan al-Assal. But footage distributed by the Britain-based Observatory said jihadists including Al-Nusra Front were behind the takeover.
Fierce fighting raged in March in Khan al-Assal during eight days in which 200 rebels and government forces were killed.
Both sides have traded accusations that chemical weapons were used in Khan al-Assal and killed around 30 people, according to a toll released that month by the Observatory and the regime.
During a visit to Damascus by two UN envoys earlier this week, Syrian authorities reiterated their demand that the United Nations focus on investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal.
Khan al-Assal`s fall from regime control has complicated any effort to send in inspectors to visit the site.
Elsewhere in Syria, the Observatory reported 10 people killed and several others wounded in regime shelling of the Idlib village of Basamis today.
Syria opposition activists also held small anti-regime protests in several towns across the country.
The Observatory, which relies on a vast network of activists on the ground and medics for its information, said at least 85 people were killed throughout Syria yesterday, including 29 civilians, 32 rebels and 24 soldiers.
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