Middle East

Over 600 dead in ISIS offensive in east Syria

Rebel fighters members of the al-Sham Brigade (Liwa al-Sham) take part in a training session in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor, on March 25, 2014. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD ABOUD

BEIRUT: Fighting is raging in eastern Syria as a jihadist group rooted in neighbouring Iraq pushes a fresh bid to create an "Islamic state" along the border, an activist group said Tuesday.

Since the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) launched a new offensive in Deir Al-Zor province 40 days ago, 634 people, mainly fighters, have been killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At the same time, 130,000 people have been forced to leave their homes, with 39 civilians killed from shelling in the fighting.

The Britain-based Observatory said 354 of the dead were members of the Nusra Front -- Syria's official Al-Qaeda arm -- and allied rebel groups.

And 241 were members of ISIS.

The group was once welcomed by some Syrian rebels, but earned the rebellion's wrath because of its systematic abuses and quest for hegemony.

Even Nusra turned against ISIS, after its Iraqi chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, sought to take over the group.

Fighting by rebel groups and Nusra against ISIS has killed more than 6,000 people since it began in early January, according to the Observatory.

Syria's war has killed more than 162,000 people and forced nearly half the population to flee their homes.





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