Al-Nusra Front and allied fighters captured a village of Bashar Assad’s minority Alawite sect in western Syria on Thursday and abducted civilians living there, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Regime forces and their allies were still fighting insurgents nearby after the capture of al-Zara, which lies close to a main highway linking the western cities of Homs and Hama, the British-based monitoring group said.
Several regime fighters and a number of the rebels had been killed and regime warplanes and helicopters were carrying out air raids in and around al-Zara, it said.
The insurgents had also captured gunmen fighting alongside Assad’s forces.
The village of al-Zara is about 35 km (22 miles) north of Homs and a similar distance south of Hama.
Regime forces and their allies have battled insurgents around the highway between the two cities, and towns in the area were among the first hit when Russia’s air force intervened in the Syrian war last September.
The Observatory said the insurgent attack was part of an assault they called “revenge for Aleppo,” a reference to the northern city where an escalation of violence by both regime aligned forces and insurgents has killed scores of people in recent weeks.
The development came as the International Red Cross was expected to deliver the first aid in almost four years to a cut-off Damascus suburb besieged by regime forces.
The International Committee of the Red Cross was to bring humanitarian relief to Daraya in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the United Nations, said ICRC spokesman Pawel Krzysiek.
It would be the first aid sent to rebellious Daraya since November 2012. The U.N. estimates the suburb’s current population is between 4,000 and 8,000 people.