The Syrian army and allied militia have regained control over several northwestern villages from insurgents on a plain crucial for defending costal areas that Damascus holds, a group monitoring the war said on Saturday.

The military is battling insurgents including al Qaeda’s Syria wing Nusra Front and the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham for control of Sahl al-Ghab, a plain that runs alongside the western coastal mountains as well as lying close to Hama city.

The insurgents launched an attack this week in the area but the government has fought back using aerial bombardments, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Syrian air force pounded the area more than 270 times in four days, the Observatory said, and by Saturday government forces had retaken several villages and areas located inside the plain.

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