Assad sends air force to prevent rebel advances in home province

Forces loyal to president are on the defensive in Latakia to prevent rebels fighting in the stronghold region of regime's Alawite sect.

By REUTERS
August 10, 2013 16:31
2 minute read.
Syrian oppositionists fighting the Assad regime

Syrian oppositionists fighting the Assad regime370. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

BEIRUT - Warplanes bombed a village in Syria's north overnight in an apparent effort by President Bashar Assad to prevent rebels fighting him from advancing on communities in the stronghold region of his Alawite sect.

Assad's forces are on the defensive in his family's home province of Latakia and recent rebel gains across northern Syria, including a military air base captured last week in Aleppo province, have further loosened his grip on the country.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


Assad controls much of southern and central Syria, while insurgents hold northern areas near the Turkish border and along the Euphrates valley towards Iraq. The northeast corner of the pivotal Arab state is now an increasingly autonomous Kurdish region.

The mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents 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 force.

As many as 20 people were killed in the air strikes on the village of Salma, including 10 civilians, six Syrian fighters and four foreign fighters, the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said on Saturday.

Salma is a Sunni village in the Jabal Akrad mountain range which overlooks the Mediterranean. Rebel forces comprised of mainly Islamist brigades, including two al Qaida-linked groups and based in Salma, have killed hundreds in offensives this month and have seized several Alawite settlements.

Amateur video footage posted on the Internet showed a large apartment block with all its outside walls blown out. Men, some in military fatigues, were seen loading bodies onto a pickup truck.



Assad has deployed extra forces in the region and the air raids reflected an urgent priority to protect the main region of his Alawite sect - 12 percent of Syria's 21 million people.

The president's forces have also been pushing to retake lost ground in neighboring Aleppo province, where insurgents have made significant headway over the past few weeks.

After the rebel capture last month of Khan al-Assal, a town southwest of Aleppo city, activists said on Saturday soldiers killed 12 civilians, including a woman, in a nearby town.

The government accuses rebels of executing 123 people in Khan al-Assal and activists say the killing in Tabara al-Sakhani, 12 miles to the south, could have been retaliatory.

Rebel-controlled districts of Aleppo city, once Syria's commercial hub but now partly reduced to rubble by the conflict, were also bombarded by army artillery, the Observatory said.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the 28-month conflict and 1.7 million Syrians have been forced to flee to neighboring countries, the United Nations says.

Click for full JPost coverage

Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than four decades, has relied on Alawite-led army units and security forces from the start, but has turned increasingly to loyalist militia armed and funded by Damascus to fight the rebels.

He has also enjoyed staunch support from Middle East Shi'ite powerhouse Iran, neighboring Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah movement and the Assads' longtime arms supplier Russia.

His fragmented foes have received little military aid from Western powers that want Assad removed but are wary of the growing presence of radical Islamists in the rebel ranks.

Related Content

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon at Syrian Israel border
March 20, 2014
Analysis: Despite bluster, retaliation is unlikely

By Ariel Ben Solomon