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Rebels fight in Syrian coast to cover losses in central region

The rebels recent battles in the Syrian coast, particularly against villages of Alawite minorities, are deemed by experts as an attempt to cover their abject failure in the central region and to stir up an outright sectarian strife in the war-ravaged country.

On Sunday, the rebels launched an all-out assault against villages in the coastal province of Latakia in what they called the battle to liberate the coast. The attack was seen by opposition activists as a powerful blow to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad as coast is the heartland of his rule, whose elite members belong to the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Latakia Battle

Rebel fighters succeeded to capture a number of villages in the northeast of Latakia, close to the Turkish border and adjacent to Jabal al-Zawieh and other areas of the province of Idlib, which has largely spiraled out of the government's control.

Speaking of military gains in some captured towns, military expert Turki Hasan told Xinhua that rebels are trying to achieve some sort of balance with the government troops that have made huge progress in central and southern region.

In a related development, around six radical factions reportedly attacked the countryside of Latakia, killing about 21 Syrian officers and 136 civilians, including women and children, according to unconfirmed media reports.

To retrieve the rebel-captured towns in Latakia, the Syrian army has reportedly unleashed a counter-attack, managing to regain two villages on Tuesday.

Radical Sunni Defeat

However, the rebels' attack was seen by experts as an " adventure" that would end with defeat because of the rugged landscape of the villages and the social nature of their people, who despise radical groups in that spot of Syria.

Latakia countryside is mountainous and thus naturally protected; also the rebels could never succeed to stay there because the people reject them, Munther Khaddam, a political expert and member of the Damascus-based National Coordination Body, told Xinhua on Tuesday.

The rebels are largely Sunni fighters who belong to the al- Qaida-linked Nusra Front, Khaddam said while expecting that the Syrian army would soon retake the snatched areas.

He further cited some conflicting reports that have emerged from the rebel-occupied villages, which say the Western-backed militants have taken innocent villagers as human shield against government's possible bombardment. "The rebels attacked a number of villages along with army posts and the battles are still ongoing," he said, adding that "there are women and children being killed and villages being destroyed."

Meanwhile, head of the opposition "Building Syria State" Party, Loai Hussain, has strongly slammed the rebels, urging the army to confront them to protect peaceful civilians.

"Surely, whoever pushed toward this armed attacks is seeking to destroy Syria by driving it into an all-out sectarian war."

[Source: Xinhua, Damascus, 06Aug13]

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