Rebels battle for Syria border post near Mediterranean

By REUTERS
March 22, 2014 16:54
1 minute read.

 
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Islamist fighters in Syria battled President Bashar Assad's forces for control of a border crossing with Turkey close to the Mediterranean on Saturday, part of an offensive aimed at opening up a rebel link to the sea.

They said heavy clashes continued around Kasab crossing and a nearby village of the same name - both about 5 miles (8 km) from the coast - a day after rebels launched their assault.

Assad's forces have already lost control of most border crossings with Turkey during the three year civil war but had held on to Kasab, gateway to the coastal province of Latakia which has remained an Assad stronghold.

In recent months, the president's forces have also made gains around the capital Damascus and the border region with Lebanon, seizing two rebel bases in the last week.

Syrian authorities accused Turkey of helping the fighters launch their attack on Kasab from Turkish territory, saying Ankara's army "provided cover for this terrorist attack" on the wooded and hilly border region.

Turkey and Gulf Arab states have backed the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad, who is from the minority Alawite sect and is supported by Iran and Shi'ite fighters from Iraq and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

The attack on Kasab was carried out by fighters from the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's Syrian operation, and the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham brigade, part of the Islamic Front alliance.

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