AMMAN - An influential Islamist cleric turned rebel commander urged Syrian insurgents on Wednesday to focus their war on President Bashar Assad's Alawite heartland to create a "balance of terror" and help turn the tide of the conflict.
After seizing large tracts of Syria's north and east and parts of the center, the rebels - short of heavy weaponry - have struggled to weaken Assad's grip over most major cities and his western Alawite communal stronghold along the Mediterranean coast that so far has been largely unscathed by the civil war.
"One has to concentrate on their strongholds and on their dwellings and their infrastructure. If (Alawites) continue living as they're doing in peace and safety while wedded to the regime they will not be affected. They will not think of abandoning Assad," said Islamist Sheikh Anas Ayrout.