[QODLink]
Middle East

Syrian rebels 'capture' air base in Aleppo

The capture of al-Jarrah airport in Aleppo comes as fighters shift from capture of cities to taking over military sites.
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2013 21:16
Fighters also seized for the first time a fleet of deployable warplanes[Al Jazeera]

Opposition fighters in Syria have seized a military air base and captured warplanes in the north of the country, as part of an assault on strategic northern targets.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday's capture of the military airport at al-Jarah in Aleppo province. The London-based monitor said the fighters also seized for the first time a fleet of deployable warplanes including MiG fighter jets.

Speaking to the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity, a regime military source in Aleppo confirmed the capture "after 48 hours of fierce combat", but downplayed the importance of al-Jarrah.

"It is a very small airport, used for training purposes," he said. "There are only small amounts of unusable ammunition left there, and several planes that have long been out of action."

During their assault on the airport, the fighters killed, injured or imprisoned 40 troops, the Observatory said. The remaining troops pulled out, leaving behind ammunition and warplanes.

Soon afterwards, the air force used fighter jets to bombard the airport in hopes of dislodging the fighters, the Observatory said. Warplanes also carried out raids near the international airport which has come under a rebel assault.

Shift north

Activists in Aleppo have told the AFP news agency that fighters in the north have shifted their focus from city battles to the capture of military airports and bases.

"They are important because they are an instant source of ammunition and supplies, and because their capture means putting out of action the warplanes used to bombard us," Abu Hisham, an Aleppo-based fighter, said via the Internet.

While fighters have seen victories in northern and eastern Syria, they have yet to take a major city in the war-ravaged country almost two years into the revolution.

The capture of al-Jarrah airport came just over a month after fighters overran Taftanaz airbase, the largest in northern Syria.

Amateur video shot by fighters overrunning al-Jarrah and distributed via the Internet showed a fleet of warplanes lining the airport's runways.

"Thank God, Ahrar al-Sham [an armed opposition group] have overrun the military airport" at al-Jarrah, said an unidentified cameraman who shot a video at the site.

"MiG warplanes are now in the hands of Ahrar al-Sham. And here is the ammunition," the cameraman added, filming two Russian-made fighter jets similar to those used by the army since last summer to bombard rebel targets.
The authenticity of the video could not be verified.

According to UN figures, more than 60,000 people have been killed in violence across Syria since protests against Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president, began in March 2011.

444

Source:
AFP
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Featured
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.