Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

France: 2014 in review

Read more

#THE 51%

South Africa: Taking a stand against child marriage

Read more

DEBATE

The Future of the Book

Read more

DEBATE

The Future of the Book (part 2)

Read more

REPORTERS

France 24’s best documentaries of 2014

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'We have to build a new Tunisia', says the president of the Tunisian Parliament

Read more

FACE-OFF

France on alert after attacks: a case of collective hysteria?

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'Beijing needs to revaluate its policy in the Tibetan areas', says FM of the Tibetan government-in-exile

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Uruguay: freed Guantanamo detainees try to adjust to normal life

Read more

Middle east

Syria launches counterstrikes after rebels seize airbase

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-01-11

Anti-regime rebels overran Idlib province's Taftanaz airbase, the largest in northern Syria, on Friday after days of fierce fighting. Regime fighters have launched air strikes in a bid to take back the base, a rights watchdog said.

Rebel fighters on Friday overran Taftanaz airbase, the largest in northern Syria, after several days of fierce combat but immediately came under fire from regime warplanes, a watchdog said.

"The fighting at Taftanaz military airport ended at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) and the base is entirely in rebel hands," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.

The base, in Idlib province, soon thereafter came under aerial attack by government fighter jets, the Britain-based Observatory said in a later statement.

"Warplanes are bombing Taftanaz military airport in an attempt to destroy it," it said in comments confirmed by a local resident.

The capture of the base marks a significant advance for the rebels, who control vast swathes of Syria's north and east and are battling President Bashar al-Assad's forces in most major cities, including on the outskirts of Damascus.

"This is the largest airbase to be seized since the revolt began" nearly 22 months ago, Abdel Rahman told AFP by phone.

The rebels have previously taken control of the relatively small Hamdan airport in Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border in the east, and the Marj al-Sultan military airport in Damascus province.

The assault on Taftanaz was led by jihadist fighters from the Al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and Islamic Vanguard battalions, the Observatory said.

Ahrar al-Sham declared in a statement that the "seizure of Taftanaz airport opens the door for the liberation of the entire Idlib province, because it is the largest helicopter airport in northern Syria and the second largest helicopter port in the whole country."

The battalion posted three videos to the Internet, one of which showed fighters celebrating in front of three tanks and cases of ammunition in a weapons depot. The authenticity of the videos could not immediately be verified.

The Observatory confirmed that the rebels seized a major weapons depot and several military vehicles but noted that troops managed to pull out most of the 60 helicopters at the airbase, leaving behind 20 choppers no longer in working condition.

Many soldiers and officers fled the base at dawn, while the total number of casualties for each side was not immediately available.

The aircraft were likely moved to the nearby Mastuma camp, a key military post with the largest concentration of tanks in the area, and the neighbouring town of Fuaa, according to the Observatory.

A military source told AFP at around 9:30 am (0730 GMT) that the rebels had gained control of most of the airport, with the exception of several buildings.

Loyalist troops previously relied on Taftanaz and the nearby Abu al-Zuhor military airport to launch aerial attacks on rebels in Idlib, using their air superiority to pound territory seized by the opposition in recent months.

With the capture of Taftanaz, Abu al-Zuhor is the only military airport still under the control of the regime in Idlib.

(AFP)

 

Date created : 2013-01-11

  • SYRIA

    UN warns one million Syrians going hungry due to conflict

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    Critics dismiss Assad speech as 'declaration of war'

    Read more

COMMENT(S)