Syria crisis: Rebels capture key military air base in Aleppo



Zeenews Bureau

Beirut: Syrian rebels gave another setback to President Bashar Assad's government as they captured a military airport in Aleppo on Tuesday.

It was yesterday that they captured the largest dam in Syria taking control of water and electricity supply in large areas.

UN human rights Chief Navi Pillay said the death toll in Syria's civil war is probably approaching 70,000, up from an estimate of more than 60,000 made less than six weeks ago.

Pillay said the UN Security Council's deep division and inaction over the nearly 2-year-old conflict "has been disastrous and civilians on all sides have paid the price."

The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said that after days of sporadic clashes around the Jarrah airfield in Aleppo province, rebels launched a major assault on the base on Monday. By Tuesday, they had overrun it.

He said several regime troops in the area were killed or wounded in the fighting, while others fled as the rebels advanced. There was no word on opposition casualties.

The airfield, which is located near the Furat dam captured on Monday, housed fighter jets used in airstrikes on rebel held-areas.

A video posted online by activists showed several military aircraft at Jarrah. Some were parked on the tarmac while one was in a hanger with boxes of ammunition piled up against a nearby wall.

"These warplanes are now in the hands of Ahrar al-Sham Islamic movement," one fighter says in the video, referring to a rebel unit.

The air base is located near the northeastern town once known as Tabqa. The town's name changed to Thawra, Arabic for revolution, after the Furat dam was built there in the late 1960s.

Earlier this month, the Observatory said rebels seized another smaller dam in Raqqa province, the Baath dam, named after Syria's ruling party.

In November, Syrian opposition fighters captured Tishrin hydroelectric dam near the town of Manbij in northern Aleppo province, which borders Raqqa.

With Agency Inputs