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Activists: Syrian rebels kill 28 soldiers in north

FILE -- In this Sunday November 27 2011 file phosupporter Lebanese former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement holds an

FILE -- In this Sunday November 27, 2011 file photo, supporter of Lebanese former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement, holds an Arabic anti-Syrian President and Hezbollah leader placard reading:"Bahhar Assad, Hassan Nasrallah, game over," during a rally to mark Lebanon's Independence Day, in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon. The powerful alliance of Iran, Syria and militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, once dubbed the "Axis of Resistance," is fraying. Iran's economy shows signs of distress from nuclear sanctions, Syria's president is fighting for his survival, Hezbollah is under fire by Lebanese who blame it for the assassination of an anti-Syrian intelligence official and Hamas _ the Palestinian arm _ has bolted. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

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BEIRUT — Syrian rebels killed 28 soldiers in attacks on military checkpoints in northern Idlib province on Thursday, just hours after a wave of bombings hit Damascus and its outskirts, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels attacked three military checkpoints near the town of Saraqeb, killing the troops. Five rebels also died in gun battles following the attacks, according to the Observatory, which relies on reports from activists on the ground.

There was no official confirmation of the deaths from the authorities.

The relentless fighting in Syria has killed more than 36,000 people since March 2011, when the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began. It started as peaceful protests inspired by the Arab Spring but quickly morphed into a bloody civil war.

The rebels fighting to topple Assad often complain they are outgunned by the military, which has in recent days intensified airstrikes on opposition strongholds following the failure of a U.N.-backed truce over a four-day holiday weekend that never took hold.

On Wednesday alone, activists said more than 100 have been killed nationwide in airstrikes, artillery shelling and fighting. Much of the violence took place in rebellious suburbs of the capital Damascus and in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a major front in the 19-month conflict.

In Damascus, “terrorists detonated” three bombs in Al-Mazzeh district late Wednesday night, targeting a mosque, a sports club and a shop, state-run news agency SANA said. One person was killed in the explosion near the district’s Al-Houda mosque, and two were wounded, the agency reported Thursday. Six people, including a child, were injured in the two other explosions, according to the report.

The government refers to rebels fighting to topple Assad as terrorists and accuses them and opposition supporters of being part of a foreign plot to destroy Syria.

Also according to SANA, authorities raised the death toll from another bombing Wednesday evening in a Damascus suburb that houses a Shiite Muslim shrine to 12, after one more victim died of wounds.

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