BEIRUT (AP) — After weeks of rebel gains in the south, the Syrian government has launched a counteroffensive and reclaimed a northern village on a strategically important route.
Activists say at least 20 people have been killed in heavy airstrikes that targeted rebels in at least seven cities and regions. To underline their resolve, the government called on opposition fighters to surrender their arms and warned in cellphone text messages that the army is "coming to get you."
State television says the counteroffensive is a message to the opposition and its Western backers that President Bashar Assad's troops are capable and willing to battle the increasingly better armed rebels on multiple fronts.
Rebels have been making gains in recent weeks, especially in the south near the border with Jordan. They have seized military bases and towns in the strategically important region between Damascus and the Jordanian border about 100 miles away.
However government troops have been chipping away slowly at the main rebel stronghold around the city of Aleppo in the north. Activists say government troops recaptured the village of Aziza on the road that links the country's commercial hub with its airport and military bases.