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May 6, 6:03 AM EDT

Activists: Insurgents seize village south of Aleppo



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BEIRUT (AP) -- A coalition of Syrian rebels and jihadists seized a strategic village from pro-government forces outside the contested city of Aleppo on Friday, signaling the reemergence of a powerful, ultraconservative insurgent coalition on the opposition's side in the Syria conflict.

Renewed fighting erupted around the village of Khan Touman hours after opposition fighters took the position from pro-government forces, the Britain-based monitoring group The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported. Fighter jets, presumed to belong to the Syrian Air Force or the air force of its powerful ally, Russia, were launching strikes on opposition positions.

At least 43 insurgents and 30 fighters on the government side have been killed in the fighting since Thursday afternoon, according to the Observatory.

The offensive was commanded by the Jaish al-Fatah, or Army of Conquest, coalition, an ultraconservative group led by al-Qaida's Syria affiliate, the Nusra Front, and the jihadist militias Jund al-Aqsa and Ahrar al-Sham. The Observatory said other non-jihadist rebels fought for Khan Touman on the side of the coalition, as well.

Khan Touman is just 4 miles (6 kilometers) from Aleppo, Syria's largest city and onetime commercial capital.

Aleppo-area opposition media activist Bahaa al-Halaby said the insurgents took control of Khan Touman around 7 a.m Friday morning.

Meanwhile, jihadist websites published photos said to be taken from the Shaer gas field district in central Homs province showing Islamic State militants helping themselves to a large government weapons cache, including tanks and military vehicles.

The vital gas fields, which were in government hands, fell to the extremist fighters Wednesday.

And a Syrian military official denied that the army carried out any operation against the Sarmada refugee camp Thursday, saying all reports about the attack are false. Air strikes on the camp, in a rebel-held area near the Turkish border, killed at least 28 civilians, including women and children. The official spoke to AP in Damascus on the condition of anonymity.

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