Rebel attack in northwest Syria kills 27 regime fighters: monitor

BEIRUT, July 10 (AFP) - More than two dozen pro-government fighters were killed in northwestern Syria overnight in a joint attack by rebel and Islamist forces, a monitor said on Tuesday. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the surprise offensive late Monday targeted a pair of villages and observation points in the coastal province and regime stronghold of Latakia, near the Turkish border.

"At least 27 regime forces and allied fighters, including eight officers, were killed in fierce clashes and shelling in the village of Al-Ateira," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"They took Al-Ateira and kicked out regime forces from several observation points after killing or wounding them."

Another 40 government loyalists were wounded and six rebels were killed, he said.

The death toll made the attack the bloodiest opposition assault on the area in three years, according to the Observatory.

Al-Ateira lies about two kilometres (just over a mile) south of the Turkish border. The Britain-based Observatory said the opposition fighters included local rebels from Latakia as well as more hardline forces.

Latakia is a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is home to the Hmeimim airbase, where Russian troops and warplanes have been based since 2015.

But forces opposed to Assad have repeatedly attacked the province since the uprising broke out in March 2011. They hold a northeastern sliver of territory bordering the neighbouring province of Idlib.

That area falls under a de-escalation deal agreed last year between Russia, fellow regime backer Iran, and rebel ally Turkey.

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