Syria rebels seize most of army base in north: Watchdog

February 14, 2013 - 2:10:08 am

BEIRUT: Syrian rebels took control of most of a strategic army base in northern Syria after a fierce firefight with President Bashar Al Assad’s forces yesterday, a monitoring group said.

The military complex, known as Base 80, is tasked with securing the nearby Aleppo international airport as well as the Nayrab military airport.

Rebels launched a coordinated assault on both airports on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which added that most of Base 80 “has come under insurgent control”.

Dozens of fighters and troops have been killed in the fighting, the Britain-based Observatory said. Activists have said Aleppo’s insurgents shifted their focus from targets in the provincial capital to air bases because they are a source of ammunition and weaponry, and to put out of action warplanes used to bomb rebel bastions.

In Aleppo city itself, meanwhile, electricity or water supplies were down on Wednesday for a fourth day in a row, said the anti-regime Aleppo Media Centre, warning of a “humanitarian disaster” in what was once Syria’s commercial hub.

Commenting on the rebels’ advance in Aleppo province, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the army may be giving up on parts of northern Syria in order to secure the centre.

“The army is barely resisting the rebels’ advance on bases in the north. Meanwhile, it is resisting with ferocity the insurgents in Daraya (southwest of Damascus) and Homs (central Syria),” Abdel Rahman said.

At least 121 people were killed in violence across the country yesterday, half of them civilians, the Observatory said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the Security Council to overcome its paralysis and take “meaningful” action to stop the bloodshed in Syria where nearly 70,000 people have died.

“It is essential for the Security Council to overcome the deadlock and find the unity that will make meaningful action possible,” he said at the Organization of American States here.