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Alawites prepare as IS, Jabhat al-Nusra close in on regime areas

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad long dismissed the threat from the Islamic State, but that threat has become real as jihadists move into the Homs countryside, approaching Alawite and Christian areas.
A memorial bearing the portraits of soldiers from the city of Tartus, who died during the Syrian conflict, is seen on a wall in the city northwest of Damascus on May 18, 2014. Tartus has itself largely escaped the conflict in Syria, but posters of its sons killed fighting for the regime elsewhere in the country line the western city's main road. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID        (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

TARTOUS, Syria — Supporters of the Syrian regime seemed to be more reassured last year, as regime forces had been advancing, retaking the lead in many regions, especially along the coast. The emergence of the Islamic State (IS) and the progress it made at the expense of the opposition, declaring the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in June, did not cause much fear in the ranks of the regime’s supporters.

However, concerns increased as IS started waging battles against government forces in Raqqa province and in the eastern countryside of Homs, while different brigades, including Jabhat al-Nusra, have been advancing in the Hama countryside, closing in on Al-Ghab plain, which is seen as the eastern gate to the Alawite areas in the mountains of the Syrian coast.

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