Syria's regime is fighting to retake land near a critical seaport hosting the removal of chemical weapons from the divided country, the Associated Press reports.
Syrian state media said government loyalists seized Observatory 45, an elevated point overlooking the northern reaches of Syria's Latakia province, AP said on Monday. However, the regime's claims of progress in the area were disputed by some nearby observers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-rebel organization operating out of the United Kingdom, also said militants had beaten back government forces, the Daily Star reported.
President Bashar Assad's government is shipping hundreds of tons of chemical-arms materials out of the provincial capital to the south under a plan to eliminate all of the warfare substances by June. The regime agreed to relinquish its chemical arsenal last year, amid threats of a foreign military response to a nerve-gas attack on rebel territory in August.
Several jurisdictions and a checkpoint along the Turkish-Syrian border last month fell under the control of militant rebels, including members of the al-Nusra Front, an organization tied to al-Qaida. The March rebel push gave the opposition its first access to the Mediterranean Sea, where cargo vessels under armed escort are transporting Assad's chemical weapons to international destruction points.
Regime forces employed ground-launched munitions and air-dropped bombs as they battled for northern sections of the province, which the British-based watchdog group said were seeing the heaviest fighting.
Meanwhile, a top Assad spokesman asserted that Turkey had deployed its own forces into Latakia, the government-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported on Monday.