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Syrian regime forces attack rebels in Latakia's Turkmen Mountains

Rebels in Latakia could face a new regime offensive [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 August, 2018

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Syrian rebels holed up in the Jebel Turkmen mountains in Latakia province have come under attack by regime forces, despite the area being covered by a truce.
Syrian rebels in the Jebel Turkmen mountains have come under attack, with regime artillery pounding the opposition frontlines on Friday night, according to Turkish media.

Jebel Turkmen is covered by a Russian-Turkish sponsored truce, but the bombardment on Friday night suggest it could be the latest opposition area to be targeted by the regime's forces.

Preparations appear underway for an assault on rebel-held Idlib province, which lies to the east of the Turkmen mountains.

Reinforcements have arrived in areas to the north, south, and east of the opposition province, with huge bombardments carried out on Idlib on Friday, killing 22 people - including six children.

Rebels in Jebel Turkmen occupy a small area of the Latakia mountains region, after Russian-backed offensives on the region in 2015.

Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias have been softening up the area over the past month, Turkish Anadolu Agency reported, with reconnaissance patrols deployed to the area to identify the rebels' frontlines.

A military build-up has also been seen in the Latakia area, including members of the Alawite Syrian Resistance militia, led by notorious warlord Mihrac Ural, who was reported to be assassinated two years ago but is still alive.

The Latakian mountains' region would provide a gateway for regime forces to enter western Idlib province, the last stronghold of the rebels.

Nearby is Jisr al-Shaghour, the last city captured by rebels during the Idlib offensive, which lies to the far east of the province.

Syria's elite Tiger Forces are thought to have joined hundreds more fighters and heavy weaponry to areas along with Idlib border, with clashes between the two sides.

Russian military have reportedly launched air strikes to "soften up" the rebel frontlines, but such an assault would be highly sensitive due to the presence of Turkish observer forces in Idlib.

Turkey also has close links to rebel forces in the eastern Latakia region, due to the Turkmen ethnicity of the inhabitants of this area.

Aid agencies have warned that 1 million children in Idlib could be at risk if the regime attacks, where many are living in refugee camps after being displaced from other parts of Syria.

Regime forces have dropped leaflets in parts of Idlib province demanding rebels surrender and warning of a planned assault.


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