Death toll in devastating IS attacks in Syria climbs to 216

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Militants carried out a series of suicide bombings and other attacks Wednesday in southern Syria, killing at least 38 people.

Mass funerals were held in the city of Sweida on Thursday, a day after the wave of attacks that began in the early hours of the mourning and lasted for hours. But repeated attacks by both Syrian government forces and USA -backed Kurdish fighters have slowly pushed them back until their territory is a fraction of what it once was.

A suicide vehicle bombing that same day killed 14 fighters from pro-government and rebel ranks in an attack on a south Syrian village claimed by the Islamic State group.

Jihadist fighters stormed several villages and staged suicide blasts in the provincial capital Sweida, near one of the few remote pockets still held by Islamic State after it was driven from most of its territory previous year.

The overwhelming majority of the dead "were in (Sweida's) northern countryside, where the bodies of civilians executed inside their homes were found", Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Government forces have previously retaken territories controlled by the rebels in the border area and are now fighting militants there.

But this month it became a new front for advancing Syrian forces after they re-established their authority over most of neighboring Daraa province.

Uniformed men ride a pick up truck in Quneitra, on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, as seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, July 26, 2018.

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Sweida, whose residents are mostly from the Druze minority, has been relatively insulated from the war that has ravaged the rest of the country since 2011. At least 45 militants died carrying it out, the Observatory said.

Government troops and allied forces are battling to reclaim the last stretch of of Sweida province from Islamic State militants.

A handful of suicide bombers on motor-bikes went on a rampage reminiscent of some of the group's bloodiest attacks during the height of their power when large swathes of Iraq and Syria was under their control. At least 45 IS militants were killed in the fighting.

"Either they can lay down their arms as part of an amnesty ongoing for four or five years, or they will be liquidated like any other terrorist", he said.

Multiple bombers blew themselves up near a market and a busy square in the city of Sweida. The Islamic State (IS) group is believed to be behind the violence.

Many local vigilante groups set up checkpoints across the city as fears persisted of renewed attacks, another resident contacted by phone said.

The Syrian military, backed by Russian forces, recently launched an operation to drive rebel from their remaining strongholds in the south-west.

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