Syrian rebels capture air defense base near Aleppo

Turkey scrambles two fighter jets to border, according to eyewitness report

A Syrian youth holds a child wounded by Syrian Army shelling in Aleppo on Thursday (photo credit: AP/Manu Brabo)
A Syrian youth holds a child wounded by Syrian Army shelling in Aleppo on Thursday (photo credit: AP/Manu Brabo)

BEIRUT — Rebels fighting to topple the Syrian regime on Friday captured an air defense base belonging to the Syrian military near the northern city of Aleppo, activists said.

Videos posted online Friday showed rebels inside the base, inspecting lines of large missiles, some on launchers, others on the backs of transport trucks.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Aleppo activists reached via Skype also reported the takeover of the base in al-Taaneh, east of Aleppo. One activist, Mohammed Abu Omar, said four rebels were killed in the overnight battle for the facility.

The Syrian regime has built a large air defense infrastructure across the country, mostly for use in a possible war with archenemy Israel, which Syria long-considered its biggest threat.

The storming of such bases by lightly armed rebels from inside Syria itself is embarrassing to the regime, though it is unclear whether it will alter the course of the civil war, which began in March 2011 as a mostly peaceful uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Also on Friday, an eyewitness cited by Reuters reported that the Turkish military had scrambled two fighter jets to the Syrian border, after a Syrian military helicopter bombed the town of Azmarin, located less than a mile from the Turkish frontier.

Activists say more than 23,000 people have been killed so far in Syria’s civil war.

Last week, the rebels reported seizing another air defense base outside of the capital, Damascus. However, it remains unclear if they have the know-how to deploy the regime’s sophisticated weapons.

One Aleppo activist said the rebels had taken all the munitions they could from the newly captured base and that he hoped they could find a way to use the missiles against Assad’s air force.

“We have asked all countries to help us with anti-aircraft weapons and no one has, so hopefully these will help,” said the activist, Mohammed Saeed.

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