SPRINGTIME IN LATAKIA: The Islamic Front claimed Monday to have launched six Grad missiles at the headquarters of the National Defense Forces (NDF), the semi-official pro-government militias, in the Latakia province town of Qardaha, the birthplace of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“As a part of the ongoing battles along the coast, named the Anfal campaign, shabiha strongholds in Qardaha were shelled,” an Islamic Front spokesperson said, before the camera panned toward the rocket launcher.
The group also struckHamimim International Airport, also known as the Basel al-Assad International Airport, early Monday with four Grad rockets, claiming to have successfully damaged and temporarily closed the airport where Iranian planes have been smuggling weapons to the Syrian government.
Pro-regime media announced the missiles caused material damage, but not injury, when they fell on the outskirts of Qardaha and al-Jableh.
Elsewhere in Latakia, the Islamic Front, which is coordinating with Jabhat a-Nusra, Ansar a-Sham and Feiliq a-Sham in Latakia, announced a convoy of vehicles, weapons and troops were heading to Latakia to “support” the campaign.
Meanwhile, official government news agency SANA reported Syrian troops had recaptured Hill 45, the highest point near northern Latakia’s Jabal al-Turkman, which rebel groups seized last Wednesday. “Units from the Syrian Arab Army and the National Defense Forces destroyed six cars armed with heavy machine guns” fleeing from Hill 45, SANA added.
Pro-regime newspaper “al-Watan” announced units from the Syrian army had killed a number of “terrorists” and destroyed weapons and military equipment in the northern Latakia towns of Kasab, Koz mountain, Hill 45, Kour Ali and near Jebel a-Nasser, all kilometers from Syria’s northern border with Turkey.
Though Latakia province has been spared the heavy violence witnessed elsewhere in Syria through three years of war, 1,052 have been killed in the eleven days since rebels seized Kasab on March 20th, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday.
Following the capture of Kasab, the rebels announced they would open a front in Latakia, the historic homeland of Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect, arguing it would “turn the tables” on the Syrian government and weaken the government on other fronts.
– By Mohammad Haj-Ali and Elizabeth Parker-Magyar on March 31, 2014.