DAMASCUS, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Battles between the Syrian troops and several rebel battalions continued Saturday in the countryside of the coastal province of Latakia, which is considered as the heartland of the administration of President Bashar al-Assad, reports said.
The most violent clashes took place in the mountainous villages of Dorin, the vicinity of Istirbe and Aramo as well as Kafrieh and Salma, where the government troops have launched a counterattack and regained control over a number of Alawite villages.
The rebels unleashed their battle, dubbed "The Battle to Liberate the Coast," last week to seize villages in the surroundings of Latakia in a bid to undermine the image of President Assad in the area, which is inhabited by the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Activists said Saturday that the Syrian air force carried out airstrikes on the Salma village, killing 20.
Meanwhile, local reports said the Syrian army's operation is still ongoing, adding it would take time due to the large number of rebels.
Pro-government and opposition experts warned against prolonging battles in Latakia because they aim to further nurture the sectarian conflict in Syria.
The head of the Building Syria State opposition party, Loai Hussain, urged the Syrian army to defeat the armed rebels in Latakia to save the area from a fully-fledged sectarian war as the assailants are mostly from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.
Blast in Syria's Hama kills 4 soldiers
DAMASCUS, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Four Syrian army soldiers were killed Saturday when a booby-trapped car ripped through the countryside of the central province of Hama, pro-government Sham FM reported.
The car went off between al-Saffeh and al-Ziara districts in the countryside of Hama, the report said, spelling no further details. Full story