AN EERIE silence hangs over what was once a busy highway that cuts through the mountains and makes for Latakia city.
Abu Yassin, who lives in one of the nearby Sunni villages in Jebel Akrad, drove his vehicle, the only one on the road, past burnt-out tanks, abandoned government checkpoints and row upon row of empty villages.
It is here, on the Mediterranean coastline of Syria's Latakia province, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may hope to make his last stand.
For centuries, this terrain belonged to his minority Alawite sect. Now many of them regard the enclave comprising the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartus and mountains to the east as their last chance of making a breakaway Alawite state to protect them against the Sunni majority rebellion.