Early this morning, the Syrian Arab Army, National Defence Force, Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Syrian Resistance stormed the strategic town of Salma in eastern Lattakia and quickly forced Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) rebels to flee this vital high ground. Salma, which has long been considered an untouchable Islamist rebel stronghold, has undergone encirclement for weeks as government forces surrounded the town from both its eastern, southern and western entrances. The offensive at Salma was predominantly carried out by Syrian ground troops due to the area’s mountainous terrain; however, countless air strikes were conducted by Syrian/Russian jets during the night and early morning while Syrian tanks provided necessary cover during the final push.
Contrary to false reports of Islamist rebels recapturing the town during the day, the Syrian Army has created a small buffer zone around Salma this afternoon and evening which effectively has them overlooking neighbouring villages and the all-important Lattakia-Idlib M5-Highway. Meanwhile, government troops further north keep pushing east along the Turkish border. Currently, Islamist rebels control merely a narrow 10 kilometer strip of land in the northeastern edge of Lattakia province.
During the past months, many rebel militants have fled Lattakia governorate as to halt rebel forces from losing ground in southern Aleppo. Thereby, local Turkmen rebel fighters in the Lattakian countryside have seen their positions overrun in dozens of villages. Furthermore, today’s victory at Salma serves as a huge morale boost for the Syrian Arab Army; many analysts had otherwise considered the town impenetrable as it had been rebel-held since July, 2012. It will not require many more losses before local Islamist rebels are forced to ensue in an all-out retreat towards Jisr al-Shigbour and Idlib.