BEIRUT — Government forces battled their way into a village in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border Sunday as they rolled back a 3-month-old rebel offensive in the rugged coastal region that is the ancestral homeland of President Bashar Assad, activists and state media said.
Islamic rebel factions launched a surprise assault in Latakia province in March, pushing south from the Turkish border to seize a string of villages in the lush, mountainous terrain. The military, nervous about an incursion in a bastion of government support, dispatched reinforcements to blunt the rebel advance and eventually turn the tide.
On Sunday, the military pushed into the village of Kassab after capturing the seaside hamlet of Samra with the support of fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, said Rami Abdurrahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Syria’s pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV said troops “restored security and stability” to the Kassab area, but did not provide details. Engineering units were clearing mines and dismantling booby traps in Kassab, the station said.
Kassab, a predominantly Armenian village, is located less than two kilometers (one mile) from a border crossing with Turkey. Most of Kassab’s residents fled south to government-held territory after the rebels overran the area in March.
Latakia is a stronghold of the Alawite minority to which Assad belongs, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.