Assad's Forces Seize Rebel-held Town in Syria's Latakia Province

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A view of Russian fighter jets and helicopters at a military base in the government-controlled coastal Syrian city of Latakia. Credit: AFP

Syrian pro-government troops retook a front-line town in Latakia province from insurgents on Tuesday, a monitoring group and state media said, in a push by President Bashar Assad's forces to recover lost territory in the west.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops and fighters from Lebanon's allied Hezbollah movement have entered Salma, located northeast of Latakia's coastal capital along front lines between rebels and Assad's forces. Syria's state news agency SANA said its troops had taken control of Salma and nearby hills.

Pro-government forces were supported by dozens of airstrikes, the observatory said, adding that Russian officers were overseeing the assault. 

Assad's forces have been focusing offensives in the western provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Homs in a campaign to recapture territory and cut rebel supply lines. The army and its allies have gained ground in Aleppo and Latakia provinces, but rebels have managed to advance in other regions including Hama province.

Pro-government forces including Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters are backed by Russian air support in Syria. Russian warplanes have bombed rebels in Latakia province, including in the Jabal Akrad and Jabal Turkman areas.

Russia intervened in the nearly five-year-old civil war on Assad's side in September, saying it was targeting the Islamic State insurgent group. U.S. officials say that most of the Russian airstrikes have hit other rebel groups fighting Assad, including foreign-backed insurgents. 

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