Syria pro-government forces push into rebel-held town in Latakia province

12 Jan, 2016 6:33 pm

BEIRUT – Syrian pro-government troops battled insurgents in and around a rebel-held town in Latakia province on Tuesday, a monitoring group and state media said, in a push by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to retake lost territory in the west.

Fighting on the government side was supported by dozens of air strikes, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Army troops and fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah had entered Salma, it said, which is located northeast of Latakia’s coastal capital and is a frontline between rebels and government forces.

Syria’s state news agency SANA said its troops had taken control of Salma’s southeastern outskirts.

Assad’s forces have been focusing offensives in the western provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Homs in a drive to recapture lost territory and cut rebel supply lines.

The army and its allies have gained ground in Aleppo and Latakia provinces, but rebels have managed to advance in other areas including Hama province.

Pro-government forces including Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters are backed by Russian air support in Syria. Russian warplanes have bombed rebels in Latakia province, including in the Jabal Akrad and Jabal Turkman areas.

Russia intervened in the nearly five-year civil war on Assad’s side in September, saying it was targeting the Islamic State group. US officials say most of the Russian strikes have hit other rebel groups fighting Assad, including foreign-backed insurgents. -Reuters

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