Beirut: Reports said on Friday that Syrian rebels have taken control of a strategic military airbase in the north-west of the war-torn country. The rebels overran the Taftanaz airport in the northern Idlib province after weeks of fierce fighting with government forces, reported the BBC.
Activists of the Free Syrian Army were reported to be in full control of the airport.
The development is significant as helicopters from the airport were used to bomb rebel-held areas in the north and deliver supplies for regime forces.
On Thursday evening, an activist near Taftanaz had said that the government bombed the air base from warplanes in a desperate attempt to push back rebels who seized several helicopters.
An amateur video posted by activists online showed smoke rising from behind helicopters parked at the Taftanaz tarmac, and a narrator said it was the result of an airstrike.
The rebel attack on the Taftanaz base is part of a wider attempt to chip away at the Syrian regime’s air supremacy, which poses the biggest obstacle to the opposition fighters’ advances.
As its control of large swaths of territory has slipped over the past year, the government has increasingly relied on its warplanes and helicopters to strike rebel-held areas.
The rebels had been besieging Taftanaz for months and launched an offensive to take the base in early November.
Its fall is an embarrassing blow to the regime but would not fully stop airstrikes by government jets, many of which come from bases farther south.
Taftanaz lies near the highway between the capital Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, a major front in a civil war that has locked rebels and government troops in a stalemate for months. Several past rebel attempts to capture the Taftanaz base had failed.
(With Agency inputs)