BEIRUT — Syrian forces conducted a missile strike on a vehicle carrying members of a Turkey-backed armed opposition faction in a rebel-held part of the country’s north Wednesday, opposition activists said, and nine gunmen were killed.
The attack happened just south of the northern town of Afrin, which is under the control of Turkey-backed opposition fighters, the activists said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, and the opposition’s Orient news said the nine fighters killed belonged to the Failaq al-Sham group.
Orient reported that the attack on the bus came as Failaq al-Sham members were heading to front lines to replace their comrades.
Syrian government forces now control much of Syria with the help of President Bashar Assad’s main backers Russia and Iran. The conflict that began in March 2011 has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.
Frontlines have experienced sporadic bombardment since a Russian-backed government offensive ended in March 2020 following a truce reached by the presidents of Russia and Turkey who support rival parties in the Syrian conflict.
On Tuesday, the United Nations said the first 10 years of Syria’s conflict killed more than 306,887 civilians — the highest official estimate to date of conflict-related civilian deaths in the country.
The figures released by the U.N. do not include soldiers and insurgents killed in the conflict. Their numbers are believed to be in the tens of thousands.