BEIRUT - Syrian rebels battled forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in the Jabal Akrad mountains overlooking the Mediterranean on Sunday
and a monitoring group said at least 30 people were killed.
showed fighters identified as members of an al-Qaida-linked Islamist brigade
waving from the roof of an army tower in the village of Barouda, one of several
Alawite villages attacked by the rebels on Sunday.
The mainly Sunni
Muslim rebels are battling to overthrow Assad, whose minority Alawite sect is an
offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, in a civil war which erupted two years ago when
mainly peaceful protests against his rule were put down with
Assad, with support from Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas,
has gained ground in recent months from the rebel fighters who are backed by
regional Sunni Muslim powers but remain largely outgunned by his
The anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12 rebels
and 19 pro-Assad fighters - including soldiers and members of his militia known
as the National Defence Army - were killed in Sunday's fighting in the mountains
of east Latakia province.
A source in Latakia said the fighting started
at dawn and that the rebels, based in the town of Salma, attacked 10 Alawite
Ambulance sirens, punctuated by the sound of bombardment and
government air raids on Salma, could be heard throughout the day, he
Further south, in Homs, the army launched artillery fire on
remaining rebel-held areas of the city, a week after capturing the rebel
district of Khaldiya - its latest victory after gains around Damascus and in the
Lebanese border region near Homs.
Rebels say they need more foreign
military support to reverse their military setbacks, arguing that Assad's
military backing from Iran and Hezbollah has turned the tide of the
Syrian state media said on Sunday that Iran's new President Hassan
Rouhani told Damascus that ties would remain strong.
the Islamic Republic of Iran's determination to strengthen its relations with
Syria and stand together in the face of all challenges," SANA news agency
"No power in the world can destabilize or undermine the
deep-rooted, historic and strategic relations between the two friendly peoples
and countries," it quoted him as telling Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki
during his visit to Tehran to attend Rouhani's swearing-in ceremony.