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Fighting rages in Syria’s Latakia as army advances

Fighting rages in Syria's Latakia as army advancesBattles raged Thursday over key flashpoints in Syria’s Latakia province, a monitoring group said, nearly two weeks into an offensive by militant groups 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, retaken by army troops in fresh round of operation, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Since last night, the fighting has been focused on Observatory 45. The army advances and takes over,” said its director Rami Abdel Rahman.
Supporting the army on the ground, the air force launched several strikes against the foreign backed militants’ bastions on the hill, the Britain-based monitor said.
Fighter jets also struck militant-held areas in the nearby Jabal Akrad area, a hill district under partial control of militant groups.
Foreign backed militants including Al-Nusra Front launched an offensive on Latakia nearly two weeks ago, and have since seized a few number of positions and villages including the Kasab area, home to a border crossing into Turkey.
Hundreds of militants on rebel sides have been killed in the battles for Latakia, including 20 militants killed in the past day, said the Observatory.
Elsewhere, four mortar rounds by the militants 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.

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