November 6, 2015 / 8:29 AM / 4 years ago

Syrian rebels recapture village in west: monitoring group

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels recaptured a village and surrounding areas in the west of the country on Friday, consolidating significant advances made the day before at the expense of pro-government forces, a monitoring group said.

Fighters from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamist group and other rebel forces took over the village of Atshan in Hama province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian government forces and allied militia, backed by Russian air strikes and support on the ground from Iranian troops and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, have waged a fierce campaign for a month in the west of Syria that the United States says has mostly targeted foreign-backed or moderate insurgents.

Russia began its air strikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad on Sept. 30, more than four years into a civil war that has drawn in the world’s major powers.

Pro-government forces captured the village of Ghamam in Latakia province on Friday, the Observatory and Hezbollah’s al Manar TV reported. Latakia, which runs along the western coast of Syria, is Assad’s heartland, but rebels have a presence inland in the province’s north from where they launch attacks.

Moscow has said its campaign targets Islamic State, but the jihadist group has a limited presence in the west of the country, where rebels mostly belong to other groups.

Atshan in Hama is close to the town of Morek, which rebels took in an assault led by the Jund al-Aqsa group on Thursday.

Syrian government forces had captured Atshan in October, the Observatory said. Morek lies on the main north-south highway that links Syria’s main cities, the capital Damascus and Aleppo.

Morek’s capture was a blow to the Russian-backed campaign in the west and northwest of the country, where it has had limited success in retaking territory gained by rebels early this year.

Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Louise Ireland

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