Syrian government forces have pushed into Kessab

Syrian government forces have pushed into Kessab –



(Reuters) – Syrian government forces have pushed into Kessab, a village on the border with Turkey and in the coastal heartland of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority sect, a monitoring group and state media said.

The withdrawal of most rebel forces from the village – including some linked to al Qaeda – is another blow to an opposition that has been undermined by recent gains by Assad’s forces and by infighting.

A number of fighters stayed behind in Kasab after the departure of most of the rebels, who included fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, Syrian state television said government forces had “restored stability and security” to Kessab and engineering teams were removing mines and explosives planted by “terrorist gangs,” the government’s customary term for rebels.

The Observatory said clashes in the area continued from around midnight on Saturday night, but did not give casualty figures.

Syrian government forces were assisted by the Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hezbollah as well as fighters of Syrian and foreign nationality, the Observatory said.

Rebel forces had taken Kessab, a majority Armenian Christian village, in March, the first time they were able to capture a settlement on the Mediterranean coast. One of Assad’s cousins, a militia commander, was killed in fighting in the area.

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