Fighting rages in Syria's Latakia: NGO
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS PhotoBattles raged Thursday over key flashpoints in Syria's Latakia province, a monitoring group said, nearly two weeks into a rebel offensive against the heartland of President Bashar al-Assad's clan and his Alawite sect.
Fighting was especially fierce over a strategic hilltop known as Observatory 45, overrun by rebels last week, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"Since last night, the fighting has been focused on Observatory 45. The army advances and takes over, then the rebels advance and push them back out," said its director Rami Abdel Rahman.
Supporting the army and militia on the ground, the air force launched several strikes on the hill, the Britain-based monitor said.
Fighter jets also struck rebel-held areas in the nearby Jabal Akrad area, a hill district under rebel control for many months.
Rebels and their jihadist ally Al-Nusra Front launched a major, surprise offensive on Latakia nearly two weeks ago, and have since seized several positions and villages including the Kasab area, home to a border crossing into Turkey.
Hundreds of fighters on both sides have been killed in the battles for Latakia, including 20 rebels killed in the past day, said the Observatory.
Elsewhere, four mortar rounds hit the Dukhaniyeh area near Damascus, killing six children and wounding five other people, said state news agency SANA.
Seven others were wounded in central Damascus, in three mortar attacks, one of which struck near the landmark Umayyad Square, SANA said.
More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria's three-year war, and half the population estimated to have fled their homes.