Syria rebels gain foothold by Mediterranean

Fighters capture tourist site by Turkish border, giving them access to sea for first time in three-year conflict.

Syrian military aircraft are likely to bomb rebels trying to use any sea passage from Samra [Activist footage]

Syrian rebels have seized control of a tourist site by the Turkish border that allowed them a small foothold by the Mediterranean for the first time since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted three years ago, activists said.

Amateur video posted online by activists on Tuesday shows a group of rebels by the sea in the seaside strip known as Samra, some sitting on rocks and raising their guns.

“This is the village of Samra, under the rule of rebels,” said the narrator of the video.

Samra straddles the Syria-Turkey border and the Turkish government has allowed Syrian rebels to ship in aid, weapons and men through its border crossing.

Still, Samra has no port, and Syrian military aircraft are likely to bomb rebels trying to use any sea passage.

There was no government confirmation of Samra’s capture.

The capture of Samra came after rebels severed one of the Assad government’s last links to the Turkish border by seizing the Kassab crossing and a predominantly Armenian Christian town of the same name on Sunday.

Activists in Latakia say the rebels’ mission of keeping their new gains in the province would prove difficult. The regime is so far in control of most of the high hills nearby, making opposition fighters in lower areas an easy target.

On Tuesday, rebels managed to capture a strategic hill known as “Observatory 45”, south of Kassab. Activists told Al Jazeera opposition forces would have to capture several other such hills to make it possible to sustain their grip.

Rebels launched their offensive on Friday in Latakia province, the ancestral home of the Assad family and a stronghold of his minority Alawite sect, a Shia offshoot that is one of the main pillars of support for his rule.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies