The Syrian rebels secured an important victory Tuesday when they took over a key piece of coastal territory. The Mediterranean coast, where most of the country’s Alawite communities reside, has long been a stronghold for pro-Assad forces. The FT reports:
“We will try to use it to bring in supplies. It’s a rugged terrain and there should be places to bring things in,” said Tareq Abdelhaq, an activist who works with rebel groups in north-west Syria.The recent gains are a psychological blow for Mr Assad’s supporters. On Sunday night rebels were even able to fire rockets into the port city of Latakia – a strategic regime stronghold. The larger move into the coastal province of Latakia will be fiercely contested by Mr Assad’s forces – who see the territory stretching from the capital up to the Mediterranean coast as critical for the president. […]One activist, who asked not to be named, said Turkey was allowing rebels to move into the battlefields through its side of the border.
No one knows whether the rebels can hold their ground against Assad’s forces, even though they may be receiving help from Ankara. Last week, during a heated battle between rebels and pro-Assad forces, Turkey sent F-16s to shoot down a Syrian army jet that it claimed had violated Turkish airspace.Turkey has a substantial Alevi minority that sympathizes with Syria’s Alawites and worries about Sunni triumphalism in Turkish politics, so it can’t support the rebels openly. But as the war moves into its third year, Ankara can’t continue to ignore the mayhem on the border.