BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group launched an offensive against government forces in eastern Syria on Saturday and captured several buildings, including a hospital, in clashes that left more than two dozen people dead on both sides.
Deir el-Zour, near the border with Iraq, is split between government forces and IS fighters. Government-held areas have been under a months-long siege by the extremists, and the U.N. has been airdropping aid to residents amid food and medicine shortages.
The Local Coordination Committees, an activist-run collective, said IS fighters have captured the Assad hospital, university dorms and grain silos in an advance that began at dawn.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting killed at least 20 government troops and six IS fighters. It said government forces have surrounded the hospital but the fate of its staff and patients is not known.
Opposition activist Omar Abu Leila, who is from Deir el-Zour but currently lives in Europe, said Saturday's fighting is different from the past because IS has launched offensives on several fronts at the same time.
Abu Leila, who has a Facebook page that tracks developments in Deir el-Zour, said IS fighters entered the hospital and shot dead several police guards that they captured alive. He said IS fighters paraded the bodies of troops and policemen through the streets of areas they control.
Abu Leila said 20 troops and pro-government militiamen were killed and at least 10 IS fighters died in the fighting.
In northeastern Syria, a car bomb exploded in the predominantly Kurdish town of Qamishli. The Observatory said two people were killed and five wounded, while state news agency SANA said five were killed and several others wounded.
Different death tolls are not uncommon in the immediate aftermath of explosions in Syria.