Syrian army troops have recaptured a key position in coastal Latakia province, state television said, as rebels press on with a campaign in the region.
“Syrian army units have full control of Observatory 45 in the north of Latakia province and are continuing to pursue terrorist groups,” the state broadcaster said, quoting the military on Monday, according to the AFP news agency.
Observatory 45 is a strategic hilltop that overlooks several areas inhabited by Alawites, the religious sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
State television reported live from near the site and broadcast pictures of dead bodies it said were “terrorists”, many of who were foreigners.
Last week, the rebels seized the position as part of an offensive launched on March 21 in Latakia province.
Rebel forces, including fighters from the al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front, have also captured the Armenian town of Kasab and the nearby Kasab border crossing with Turkey, as well as the village of Samra, giving them access to the Mediterranean for the first time.
More than 300 people on both sides have been killed since the rebels launched their offensive, said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The army has managed to install multiple rocket-launchers on Observatory 45, but fighting in continuing in the vicinity of the hillside,” said the anti-Assad monitoring group.
After a series of rebel losses in Damascus province, the opposition has shifted its focus to Latakia, where the army and pro-government militias have rallied to defend the area.
On Monday, opposition forces fired rockets at Latakia’s Bassel al-Assad airport for the first time.
The civilian facility is named after a deceased brother of the president and is near the town of Qardaha, the Assad clan’s ancestral home. Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad is buried in Qardaha.
“The rockets landed near the airport without causing deaths or damage,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
The conflict has become more complex, with rebels once allied in their bid to topple the regime now fighting against each other.
In the past 10 days, fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have been locked in battle with fellow fighters from Al-Nusra Front in the northeastern province of Hasakeh.
More than 146,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war, which is now in its fourth year.