20:48 GMT +326 June 2019
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    A Syrian Arab Army soldier holds position during a combat operation against Islamist militants in the vicinity of Damascus.

    Hearts and Minds: Syrian Army Wages Tactical Warfare Against Militants

    © Sputnik / Michael Alaeddin
    Middle East
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    The Syrian Army has liberated all major cities in the province of Latakia from Islamist militants.

    The Syrian Arab Army, supported by Russian Aerospace Forces, has managed to drive Islamist militants from the city of Rabia in Latakia Province, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

    The military now intends to use the city, which used to be the last major Islamist stronghold in Latakia, as a staging area for offensive operations against militant forces entrenched in Idlib Province, the news agency adds.

    Syrian Army sappers are currently sweeping the city, which has been held by Islamist militants for four years, looking for booby traps left behind by the retreating rebels.

    "We’ve liberated a large swathe of territory," one of the Syrian soldiers told RT. "The terrorists are holed up in the town of Han-ash-Sheikh, trying to stage a counterattack."

    Han-ash-Sheikh is currently being held by members of Jabhat an-Nusra – the local branch of al-Qaeda – but the Syrian military is reluctant to launch an all-out assault as it will likely result in numerous civilian casualties.

    "The militants know that we want to avoid civilian casualties, so they try to stick close to residential buildings. We always hold fire if there’s a risk of hurting civilians," a Syrian army tank commander named Anas explained.

    Meanwhile, Syrian forces have managed to liberate roughly 46 square miles of Latakia Province during the latest offensive, and are making significant gains in several of the country's other provinces.


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