Opposition activists told the Observatory that the minibus drove over a mine planted by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. There was no immediate comment from the government.

The explosion was reported in rebel-held territory in Syria's Deraa province but there are also Army troops in the nearby base of Tel al-Jumaa, which is besieged.

Assad's forces are battling a civil war which grew out of protests against his family's four-decade grip on the country.

Violence has continued despite pleas from regional Arab and Muslim organizations for a ceasefire to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al Adha.

The British-based Observatory, which is opposed to Assad, reported clashes in most provinces on Wednesday and said that war planes had been deployed to the eastern desert city of Deir al-Zor.

The group said at least 27 government soldiers had been killed during intense clashes in Deir al-Zor over the past two days although rebels gave a figure more than double that.

(Agencies)

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