Fighting rages in Assad’s home province

March 23, 2014 - 9:57:32 am

A man stands on the debris of damaged buildings in the Al-Katerji district of Aleppo in Syria yesterday. 

BEIRUT: Fighting raged yesterday between rebels and loyalist forces in Syria’s northern Latakia province, a day after 34 people were killed as Islamists sought to seize a border crossing into Turkey, an NGO said.

The fighting has prompted President Bashar Al Assad’s government to complain to the United Nations that Turkey was providing cover to rebels crossing the border from its territory.

Latakia province, which includes Assad’s family village, is considered a regime stronghold, and many of its residents are from his Alawite minority.

Large parts of Latakia have remained relatively insulated from three years of fighting in Syria, but the province was shaken on Friday as three Islamist groups battled to seize the Kasab border crossing.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Islamists included the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front, who were also active in yesterday’s clashes against regular troops and pro-regime militia. There were no immediate reports on casualties, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 34 people were killed on Friday, including 13 rebels and five civilians.

Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Observatory, said fighting was under way in three government-controlled villages and another three that loyalists were trying to seize from rebels. State news agency SANA said loyalists had “destroyed an ammunition and rocket depot, as well as vehicles transporting weapons... in numerous operations” in the north of the province.

And a security source said the army on Friday had retaken two police stations that had been captured by “rebels infiltrated from Turkey”.

The source said Damascus had sent a message to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Ankara of “providing cover” for the rebels and demanded that the Security Council “denounce this terrorist attack on Syrian territory”. “Terrorist” is the common regime term for rebels.

Friday’s clashes came after 

Al Nusra, Sham Al Islam and Ansar Al Sham announced the beginning of the “Anfal” campaign in the Latakia area. AFP

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