Middle East

Big rebel attack in Syria targets area vital to Assad

Insurgents have launched a big offensive on government-held areas in northwestern Syria in a bid to advance towards a coastal region vital to President Bashar al-Assad's control of western Syria, a monitoring group and activists said on Tuesday.
A Syrian military source described the attack as large and widespread. The insurgents are seeking to drive into the Sahl al-Ghab plain, an area crucial to the defense of the coastal mountains that are the heartland for Assad's Alawite sect.
Supporters of an insurgent alliance fighting in the area, the "Army of Conquest", said the insurgents had seized a power station in the area and listed a total of 16 locations captured from government forces in the offensive.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that reports on the war using sources on the ground, said insurgents including the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front captured government-held positions outside the town of Jisr al-Shughour and pushed into the northern tip of the Sahl al-Ghab plain overnight.
Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said government forces had launched a counter attack and had recovered some lost ground in Sahl al-Ghab.
The military source said: "The battles are ongoing in that area between the army and the militant attackers, the terrorists."
Insurgents including the Nusra Front captured Jisr al-Shughour in May, part of a wider offensive that drove Syrian government forces from nearly all the northwestern province of Idlib.

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