Latakia had been a site of protest activity since March 2011. The Syrian government claimed 12 were killed there in clashes in late March, leading to the deployment of the military to restrict movement into and out of the city. Hundreds of Syrians were reportedly arrested, and by late July, activists in Latakia were telling foreign media they feared a more violent crackdown was coming. Protests continued despite the increased security presence and arrests. Several civilians were allegedly killed in confrontations with security officers during this early period of the siege.
On 14 August, the opposition Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) said the death toll increased dramatically as the Syrian Army commenced an artillery and tank bombardment of parts of Latakia and the Syrian Navy fired on neighborhoods near the coast with gunboats armed with heavy machine guns. The Syrian National Organization for Human Rights said it had the names of 26 confirmed dead in Latakia, while SOHR said most of the deaths were caused by machine-gunning. The Syrian government said two security officers and four armed men who were terrorizing residents were killed.
The assault reportedly continued on 15 August, when the Syrian Army ordered residents in southern and southeastern Latakia to evacuate. Al Jazeera reported residents claimed soldiers were rounding up people in central Latakia, forcing them onto buses, and corralling them inside Al-Assad Stadium. The Syrian Revolution Co-ordinating Union, a coalition of opposition activists, said at least six were killed throughout the day in Latakia. The Syrian government denied it was directing gunboats against Latakia, calling the claims "absolutely baseless", and said the ships off the coast of Latakia were part of an anti-smuggling patrol. The United NationsRelief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said more than 5,000 Palestinians had been forced to flee from a refugee camp on the outskirts of Latakia during the assault, and the LCC reported soldiers were moving from residence to residence in the camp and ordering the Palestinians to leave. The LCC also said Syrian soldiers had begun firing at random in addition to shelling neighborhoods and searching houses. At least one resident reported the district containing the Palestinian camp was shelled, among others, and that heavy machine-gun fire was being directed at over half a dozen other neighborhoods in the city.
Avaaz, the international human rights group, said it could name nine confirmed killed on 16 August in Latakia. Residents reported that many people were being detained as they attempted to flee the city. They also said shabiha, plainclothes militiamen loyal to Assad, were looting homes and shops in the al-Ramel neighbourhood, where the Palestinian refugee camp is located, as well as attempting to remove any sign of shooting. One resident said he was afraid the neighbourhood would be completely destroyed.
A doctor working in Latakia reported on 18 August that the claims of opposition activists, including the use of warships to attack the city and the detention of hundreds of civilians in a sports stadium, were true. He said more than 50 people had died since 14 August in Latakia. Sunni and Palestinian residents of the city were targeted disproportionately, according to his account, and homes were being destroyed by shelling, gunfire, and bulldozers to flush people out into the open where many were rounded up and arrested.
On 10 January 2012, video footage appeared to show a small crowd of pro-Assad demonstrators in Latakia surrounding and climbing onto the white vehicles used by monitors, injuring 11 observers.