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May 25, 2017

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Syria rebels seize area near Turkey

DAMASCUS--Syrian rebels seized the Kasab village and border crossing with Turkey Monday, an NGO said, as the regime launched fresh air strikes in a bid to halt the opposition advance.

The air raids come a day after a Syrian warplane was shot down by Ankara's jets in an incident slammed as "flagrant aggression" by Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels and their jihadist ally Al-Nusra Front were now in full control of Kasab, the only border crossing with Turkey in sensitive Latakia province, President Bashar al-Assad's heartland.

The crossing was the last functioning border post with Turkey to slip from regime control.

"The rebel fighters are in control of Kasab's main square. There is fighting on the edges of Kasab, but the rebels are in control of the village" and border crossing, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, four days into a rebel offensive.

According to a security source in Damascus, however, the village has not fallen.

"The situation is unclear, the fighting continues, and neither side is in control of the village," the source said.

The battle for Kasab, launched by rebels and Al-Nusra Front on Friday, killed at least 130 regime and opposition fighters on Saturday and Sunday alone, said the Observatory.

The rebel advance came despite Syria's air force carrying out strikes and dropping barrel bombs Monday on their positions in the Kasab area and in nearby Jabal Turkman, said the Observatory.

The army also used tanks to shell the Kasab frontier post, said the Observatory.

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