DAMASCUS, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The ongoing clashes between the Syrian army and the hardline armed militant groups in Syria's northwestern province of Latakia have claimed the lives of over 500 rebels since Friday, the al-Watan newspaper said Wednesday.
While the intense battles are still raging on in the northern countryside of Latakia, on the border with Turkey, more than 500 rebels were killed, most of them were Saudis and Chechens, the paper said, adding the rebels have failed to seize control of any areas that they have targeted, contrary to what they are claiming on media outlets.
The battles in the northern countryside of Latakia, namely the rugged coastal town of Kasab near the Turkish borders, have started on Friday, when large numbers of armed militant groups infiltrated the Syrian territories from the Turkish side of the borders.
Meanwhile, the al-Watan daily said the rebels are staging hit- and-run attacks in Kasab without achieving any gains on ground.
The paper said that a Saudi suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden armored vehicle at the military observatory 45 site in Kasab, adding that the blast led to the killing of Colonel Samuel Ghannum, the officer in charge of the observatory site.
Citing military sources, the paper said the troops succeeded in foiling the rebels attack on the observatory and fully secured it after killing 75 of the attackers.
The Syrian artillery is also targeting the positions of the rebels, destroying the rocket launchers that they are erecting on the Syrian territories, the paper added.
Activists said the rebels are fighting in northern Latakia to open a route on the sea to receive weapon shipments after the Syrian troops had deprived them of key smuggling routes from Lebanon in the south.
The battles in Latakia, which are grabbing the headlines of local and foreign media outlets, are important as the area is the ancestral home place of President Bashar al-Assad's family and stronghold of his Alawite minority sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The Syrian government has for long accused regional and other countries of supporting the hardline militant groups, mainly the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and other jihadist groups, in their battles to bring down the Syrian administration.