DAMASCUS, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- A total of 12 rebels and 19 regular troops were killed Sunday, as a result of clashes in Syria 's coastal Latakia province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The clashes at Jabal al-Akrad area have begun when the armed rebels unleashed wide-scale attacks against positions of the Syrian army at dawn Sunday, according to the Observatory.
The Syrian air force also responded by air striking rebels' positions in the coastal province, the Observatory said.
Earlier in the day, the pro-government Sham FM radio said that armed rebels in large numbers attacked three villages in the countryside of Latakia on Sunday, killing at least five Syrian soldiers.
The rebels focused their offensive between al-Haffeh and Slinfe towns, the report said, adding that violent clashes also erupted on several other fronts between the rebels and government troops in the province.
Citing medical sources, the radio said tens of civilians were hospitalized, including children, and there are unconfirmed reports about civilian hostages in the hands of the rebels.
Activists also reported the violence in Latakia, saying that clashes took place on Sunday morning at a number of army posts in the towns of Estriya, Baruda, Kafreya and Tela in Jabal al-Akrad area in Latakia's countryside.
The clashes came as the rebels have seemingly opted to open new fronts to confuse the Syrian army whose troops are stretched on battles across the country.
The attack against Latakia also came to cover for the rebels' losses in the central province of Homs, where the Syrian troops stripped the rebels of two major areas over the past month -- al- Qussair and al-Khalidieh.
Latakia province has a special importance as it houses towns and villages inhabited by the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, to whom the ruling elite in Syria belongs.
The rebel Free Syrian Army has threatened to carry out " qualitative" operations against government troops in response to what its leaders say "the regime's brutality," and the rebels have reportedly received their long-awaited arms shipments promised by some Western and Arab countries, including the United States, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, reports said.