Activists said the Syrian opposition has taken control of a strategic northern town that is crucial to the government's fierce campaign against rebels in the embattled city of Aleppo.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have completely withdrawn from Saraqeb, where the main highways from Aleppo to Damascus and the Mediterranean coast meet.
Activists said at least 28 soldiers were killed in the attacks on government checkpoints in the area Thursday, leading to the control of Saraqeb.
Shortly after the attacks, a video began circulating Thursday on the video-sharing website YouTube that appears to show Syrian rebels killing soldiers execution-style. The killings allegedly occurred after soldiers' surrendered.
The video could not be independently authenticated, but is causing an international outcry among human rights groups.
The United Nations human rights body said the video is likely evidence of a war crime. Rights groups including Amnesty International have condemned the alleged attack.
There was no immediate response from the Syrian government or from state-controlled media about the video or rebels' claims of a key strategic win.
The rebel control of Saraqeb will make it extremely difficult for government forces to bring in reinforcements and armor to defend their positions inside Aleppo.
Rami Abd al-Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told VOA Friday that rebel forces now control an area extending 25 kilometers in all directions from the town. He said this means government convoys resupplying troops in Aleppo will now be more vulnerable to rebel attacks.
"It is an important town where you can cut off support for the Syrian regime fighting in Aleppo," said Abd al-Rahman. "The Syrian regime will have some equipment and is ready [to fight] for the next few months, but if the Aleppo fighting continues for a long time, the Syrian regime will lose Aleppo."
Government troops have for months been fighting rebel forces for control of Aleppo, Syria's largest city and commercial capital.
The Syrian conflict is entering its 20th month and has caused the deaths of an estimated 36,000 people. Hundreds of people were killed in the past week as the government has stepped up airstrikes against rebel-controlled areas.
Article by VOA News