Pro-government gunmen have kidnapped more than 300 people in northwestern Syria, a Britain-based activist group said on Saturday, dpa reports.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the 300 mainly Sunni-Muslims were kidnapped in Idlib province in retaliation for the abduction of 42 Shiite Muslims this week.
"We have information that the number could reach 700," the head of the Observatory Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The Observatory reported that 42 Shiites, mainly women and children, were snatched Thursday from a bus travelling to Damascus.
Most of the Sunni Muslims hostages hail from villages controlled by rebels from the hardline al-Nousra Front group.
Separately, Israeli soldiers on Saturday provided medical treatment to five Syrians wounded in clashes between rebels and government forces near the Golan Heights, the Israeli military said.
An army spokeswoman said the five were taken to a hospital in northern Israel for further treatment. It was the first such incident in the Syrian conflict, which enters its third year next month.
The spokeswoman declined to say whether the five were rebels, government soldiers or civilians. Battles between government forces and rebels were reported in the Syrian village of Khan Arnabeh near the border with Israel.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 Middle East war and annexed it later. Although the border has been calm, the two countries remain officially at war.
The Israeli army last year fired back at Syria after shells from the fighting landed on the Golan.
Most rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad are Sunni Muslims. Al-Assad's supporters are mainly from his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. Alawites, Ismailis, and other Shiites make up 13 per cent of Syria's roughly 26 million population. dpa wh nes ro jln Author: Weedah Hamzah