Syria opposition ‘captures’ Assad soldiers

Unconfirmed video shows 256 government troops detained by opposition fighters, as violence rages in Aleppo and Damascus.

Syrian rebel fighters in the northern city of Aleppo, amid rising tensions between Damascus and Ankara [AFP]

Syrian opposition fighters have said they have captured more than 250 members of the government’s armed forces in the province of Idlib.

The announcement on Saturday was accompanied by amateur video showing what the rebels claim are 256 captured Syrian soldiers who were displayed for the cameras. 

“All we know is that these prisoners are from Az Zainiyeh,” Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught reported from Antakya.

“Az Zainiyeh was where the Syrian army forces had withdrawn  after opposition fighters had driven them out of the villages in that part of Idlib.”

The rebels took Az Zainiyeh three days ago and the the prisoners may have been captured during that fighting. Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the identity of the prisoners or where the video was filmed.

Also on Saturday, strong explosions were reported in the Syrian capital and the city of Aleppo, according to a Syrian opposition group.

The Local Co-ordination Committees (LC) in Syria told Al Jazeera a large explosion struck near the Air Force Intelligence Branch in the neighborhood of Jamiah Al-Zahra’a in Aleppo on Saturday morning. Heavy gunfire and armed clashes were also reported in the area.

The LCC also reported a large blast in Damascus.

Opposition fighters told a correspondent for the AFP news agency in Aleppo that their forces had captured a government military site near the city early on Friday. Massive clouds of grey smoke could be seen rising from the site in Al-Taana.

The head of the university hospital in Aleppo, who was accused by the opposition of backing the regime and kidnapped in July, was murdered and his body found on Friday, a friend of the doctor told AFP.

Opposition fighters also attacked a large air force post on the highway connecting Aleppo to Raqa province, further to the east, near Kweris military airport, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Friday demonstrations

Anti-government demonstrations were held across Syria after the weekly Muslim prayers.

Government forces fired on protesters in the Halab al-Jadida district, wounding a number of demonstrators, the Observatory said.

Syrian activists uploaded amateur video online on Friday of what appeared to be attacks by government forces over Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.

In one video, an attack plane appears to be strafing areas near the city, while in another local residents run for cover amid smoke and dust in what appears to be the immediate aftermath of shelling.

Aleppo has been the scene of intense fighting, particularly since rebels launched a new offensive two weeks ago to try to dislodge regime troops.

The fighting has devastated large areas of the city of three million, Syria’s former business capital.

According to the Observatory, the rebels took 256 soldiers prisoner in capturing the town of Khirbat al-Joz and nearby areas in Idlib province along the border with Turkey since last week.

After seizing a stretch of highway near Maaret al-Numan, the rebels were able to cut the route linking Damascus to embattled commercial hub Aleppo on Thursday, choking the flow of troops to the north, according to a reporter for AFP.

The United States denounced Russia’s policy of aiding the Syrian government as “morally bankrupt” on Friday, as tensions between Damascus and Ankara escalate over cargo seized from a Syrian passenger plane.

Source: News Agencies