Rebels push for Latakia, announce new command center

COASTAL CAMPAIGN: Opposition factions fighting in Syria’s northwestern Latakia province announced the formation Saturday of a “Joint Operations Room” to mount what rebels are calling the “Battle of Anfal” approaching Alawite enclaves along the Mediterranean coast.

The announcer states that the new ops center will “organize the revolution’s military work” and “design military plans, support missions and secure the lines of defense,” listing a number of participating groups including the Islamic Front’s Ansar Brigade.

The statement comes two days after rebel fighters announced the “Anfal” campaign, to claim territory in Syria’s northwestern coastland.

Opposition activists told Syria Direct Sunday that any new military formations in Latakia will prove important in the coming weeks.

“The battle for the coast is important because it’s in the regime’s heartland and because it will relieve pressure from the other fronts throughout Syria,” said a Latakia-based correspondent for pro-opposition Sham News Network.

The first major military shifts in the fighting for Latakia came this weekend, with Islamist fighters publishing a video Sunday showing their takeover of the Kasab border crossing between Syria and Turkey.

Pro-regime Syrian daily al-Watan also reported heavy clashes around the Kasab border crossing, quoting a source who said that the fighting between pro- and anti-government forces had “expanded to include the villages of Kirbat Soulas, Beit Halbia and al-Malik,” all of which are controlled by the Syrian army.

Syria’s Mediterranean coastland comprises the provinces of Latakia and Tartus, the historic heartland of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect. Tartus also contains a Russian military base and Syria’s only Mediterranean port.

By Mohammad Haj-Ali and Alex Simon on March 23, 2014.

Video courtesy of al-Sham Legion. 

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