Hama provinceOctober 8, 2015http://syriadirect.org/news/syrian-army-launches-second-ground-offensive-this-week-in-northwest/AMMAN: The Syrian army began its second major ground campaign this week on Thursday, targeting rebel positions in the northwest Hama plains region and adjacent Latakia province in an attempt to push rebels back from the coast, the stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect. Regime forces “are using the camp near Jourin in Sahl al-Ghab as a launching point,” Major Ahmed al-Masud of the FSA-affiliated Division 13, which is actively fighting the regime for the plains, told Syria Direct Thursday. In addition to targeting rebel positions in Sahl al-Ghab, the Syrian army launched a campaign towards rebel-held Selma in the southeast Latakia countryside, al-Masud said. Thursday's assault comes one day after the Syrian army attacked rebel positions in the northern Hama countryside, approximately 44km southeast of Jourin. Regime forces in northwest Syria Thursday morning. Photo courtesy of IvanSidorenko As of publication, battles in Sahl al-Ghab and neighboring east Latakia countryside are ongoing with no party gaining the upper hand. While pro-regime sources reported that the Syrian army had taken control of a village in Sahl al-Ghab, a citizen journalist in the western Hama countryside denied that account to Syria Direct Thursday. “Assad's forces are conducting a forceful assault on the village of al-Bahsa...battles are ongoing without one side taking full control,” said Mustafa Abu Arab. Jourin is considered the gateway into Latakia from the Sahl al-Ghab plains. After taking control of adjacent Idlib province in April, rebels began pushing westward into the plains region in a bid to break into the Syrian coast. Over the next five months, they engaged in a series of back-and-forth battles with regime forces in the area but were never able to capture Jourin. Russian warplanes bombed rebel positions in the Sahl al-Ghab region on Thursday as the Syrian army began its offensive, reported pro-regime Lebanese channel al-Mayadeen.