Syria: 'sectarian cleansing' on both sides?
A Syrian rebel offensive targeting Alawite villages close to President Bashar Assad's hometown of Qardaha in the coastal governorate of Latakia has seen some 200 people killed and left nearly 3,000 families displaced since the start of the month. Both the Free Syrian Army and jihadist factions including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and the Mujahedeen Brigade are taking part in the "battle to liberate the coast," the Alawite heartland where support for Assad runs deepest. FSA military commander Salim Idriss told Saudi-owned news network Al Arabiya that his forces are fighting against regime troops, not Alawite civilians, and pledged that there would be no reprisals. Rebel forces have taken control of 11 Alawite-majority villages since the offensive began, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (Al Arabiya, Aug. 13; Al Bawaba, Aug. 7)
Concerns about reprisals against Alawite civilians come following charges of "Sunni cleansing" by pro-regime forces, with the aim of creating an Alawite mini-state within Syria.
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