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Syrian government evacuates 5,000 from embattled industrial town near Damascus

Sunday - 12/29/2013, 5:18pm  ET

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria's state news agency says the government has evacuated some 5,000 people from an industrial town near Damascus where al-Qaida-linked rebels have been battling government troops for more than two weeks.

Opposition fighters from the Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) swept into Adra in mid-December, reportedly killing civilians, many of whom are members of the Alawite and Druse sects. Both minority communities largely support President Bashar Assad, who himself is an Alawite, against the primarily Sunni-led rebellion.

Shortly after the rebels pushed into the town, Syrian soldiers surrounded the area and there has been heavy fighting there since.

Meanwhile, an activist group says the death toll from nearly two weeks of Syrian government airstrikes on opposition-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo has surpassed 500. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the dead include 151 children.

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