Syrian rebels took control of a Syrian air force base near the city of Homs Sunday, according to a report in Al-Arabiya.

The fighters gained control of a number of surface-to-air missile batteries, giving them an extra edge as they battle forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

According to the report, officers and soldiers at the base defected and joined rebel forces. The base’s battalion commander had asked the soldiers to choose between joining the rebellion or going home.

The northern region around the city of Homs, a rebel stronghold, has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the 15-month uprising. Some 38 people were killed in the area Sunday amid intense shelling Sunday, and opposition groups reported seeing drones flying over the city.

Rebel groups say the death toll has passed 14,000, Al-Arabiya reported.