President Bashar Assad's forces killed at least 18 rebels in central Syria in clashes near the country's main north-south highway, activists said on Tuesday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting took place overnight in Hama province near the town of Morek, which straddles the major road that links the capital, Damascus, with the largely rebel-held northern provinces.
Since last year, the government has been battling rebels for control of the highway, which the regime wants to keep open so it can resupply its forces bogged down in fighting in the contested city of Aleppo. The opposition wants to cut the route to prevent supplies from reaching those troops.
The fighting is part of the broader battle in Syria's civil war for control of the country's north. During the past year, the rebels have pried free most of the northern countryside from the regime, while the government still holds the provincial capitals, with the exception of Raqqa and parts of Aleppo.
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