CNN  — 

At least 47 people, many of them civilians, were killed by ISIS militants Thursday near the government-held city of al-Salamiyah in central Syria, a senior member of the pro-government National Defense Force told CNN.

The militants struck the village of Akareb, about 13 miles east of al-Salamiyah, very early in the morning, the NDF member said. At least 20 civilians were among those killed, he said.

ISIS simultaneously shelled eastern parts of al-Salamiyah, injuring about 100 people, he said. The attack was eventually repelled by members of the NDF and Syrian Army forces, he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said 52 people died in the attack on Akareb. Five children and four women were among those killed, SOHR said. ISIS militants are said to have executed three of those women, who were from the same family, the group added.

Twenty-seven of those killed were members of government forces and loyalists, according to the group.

Syria’s state-run news agency SANA also said 52 people had been killed. It cited a medical source at Hama Health Department as saying that 20 bodies had been brought from Akareb, many of which had been beheaded and had had limbs cut off. Among the victims were women and children, SANA reported.

The attack happened along the regime’s only land route to the northern city of Aleppo, a key strategic objective for ISIS. The route leads from Homs to al-Salamiyah, to Asriyah and then back west to Aleppo. A more direct route from Homs to Aleppo runs through opposition-held territory.

ISIS attacks in the al-Salamiyah area have become more frequent as the extremist group is squeezed in its northeastern stronghold, Raqqa, the senior NDF member told CNN.