DAESH militants have staged a surprise attack in north-eastern Syria, killing at least 30 people, most of them civilians who had fled fighting in areas of Syria and Iraq held by the extremist group.

The pre-dawn attack took place after militants entered the village of Rajm Sleibi, on the front line between the Kurdish-controlled Hasakeh province and Daesh-held areas further south.

The village, near the Iraqi border, houses a temporary camp sheltering hundreds of displaced people who fled Daesh-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq.

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Reports from Hasakeh said victims arriving at the city’s hospitals showed evidence of knife and shot wounds.

Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the main Kurdish fighting force in Syria, said the attack started with an early morning assault by Daesh militants on a checkpoint in Rajm Sleibi belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed, Kurdish-dominated force that fights Daesh.

The militants then “committed a massacre” of civilians as they sought to enter SDF-controlled territory, Khalil said.

He added that the attack came a few hours after Daesh suicide bombers dressed in civilian clothes entered the town of Shaddadeh and engaged SDF forces.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the Syrian conflict through activists on the ground, put the death toll at 32, including 23 civilians, many of them Iraqis.

Rajm Sleibi is about 18 miles south of the town of al-Hol, which houses a large refugee camp for civilians displaced from Syria and Iraq.

A Kurdish activist said it is the entry point to Hassakeh for Syrians civilians fleeing the eastern cities of Deir el-Zour and Raqqa in Syria, and those fleeing Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq.

The civilians initially spend about two weeks in Rajm Sleibi while they get security clearance from Kurdish authorities, and from there are taken to al-Hol.

Issam Amin, a media activist in Hasakeh, said he had been told the attack was carried out by just six Daesh militants who arrived in a Hummer and shot and stabbed displaced Syrians and Iraqis.