During the evening hours, the Syrian Arab Army captured the village of Aras in the Latakian countryside after a brief skirmish with rebel fighters of Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda). Due to mountainous terrain, tanks and artillery pieces were rendered largely useless for the battle; however, ground troops of the Syrian Arab Army’s 103rd Brigade of the Republican Guard stormed the village from its western, southern and eastern flanks and thus forced rebel fighters to retreat further north.
Since October of 2015, government forces have captured dozens of villages from Islamist insurgents in the eastern and northern outskirts of Latakia province. Remarkably, the Syrian Arab Army has also captured the rebel strongholds of Salma and Rabiah which have otherwise been rebel-held since the summer of 2012. This offensive can partially be credited to the Russian Airforce which utilizes the Hmeymim Airbase near Latakia city as to combat Islamist rebels inside Syria.
For now, less than 10 kilometers set government troops and the Turkish border apart. If this area is captured by the Syrian Arab Army, such a maneuver would completely expel rebel forces from Latakia province and force them to retreat towards Idlib and Jisr al-Shigbour. The latter might possibly witness a huge battle in the near future if government soldiers are able to maintain the momentum and current rate of advance.