Rebels have intensified attacks in recent months on core regime supporters in Syria, creating fear among some that the government can no longer defend them.

The opposition is targeting areas including western Latakia province and towns north of the capital Damascus where Alawite and Christian minorities that back President Bashar al-Assad are concentrated.

In Latakia, rebels have been holding more than 150 Alawites hostage for four months. They were seized in the aftermath of an Aug. 4 attack on more than 10 villages in the province that killed nearly 200 people, according to survivors, witnesses, security officials and an extensive Human Rights Watch report. […]