Syria rebels say seize airport near Iraqi border

BEIRUT Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:09pm EST

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Rebels said they captured an airport used by Syria's military near the Iraqi border on Saturday, strengthening their hold on the recently seized border town of Albu Kamal.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces have retaliated by bombing the airport with fighter jets, said Ziad al-Amir, a local opposition activist.

Video published by rebel groups showed fighters patrolling a dusty desert air base in Syria's Deir al-Zor province. Plumes of grey smoke rose from some low concrete buildings as fighters examined several abandoned tanks.

Assad has been struggling to put down the 20-month-old revolt against his rule, which began as peaceful protests but has morphed into a civil war that has spread to most of the country. Opposition supporters say more than 38,000 people have died.

Hamdan airport was once used to transport farm produce but was converted to a base for helicopters and military tanks during the unrest. The capture of Hamdan means Assad's forces now only hold one air base in the province - the main military airport in Deir al-Zor city.

The activist Amir, speaking on Skype, said the rebels were able to seize some mortars and armoured vehicles as well as ammunition.

There was no comment from the Syrian government or state TV on the activists' claims.

If rebels keep their hold on the airport, then Albu Kamal, a border city of more than 60,000 people, is likely to stay in rebel hands, said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The fighters seized Albu Kamal two days ago but had been unable to take the nearby Hamdan airport, from which helicopters had been taking off and hitting rebel areas.

"These new captures means that the largest territory outside of regime control is now the region along the Iraqi border in Deir al-Zor," he said.

But the rebels' hold of territory on the ground is unlikely to prevent attacks from the sky, in what has become a typical cycle for clashes between the Syrian army and rebels.

Opposition fighters, using improved tactics and equipped with heavier weapons than previous months, are able to capture territory and force out military units but are unable to fend off attacks from the air. The army often bombs security sites taken by the rebels, perhaps to destroy any useful equipment.

Around 12 rebel fighters were killed in shelling and heavy clashes near the outskirts of the city after the rebels seized the airport, according to activists.

"Some of the army officers left the soldiers in the airport and fled with three of the tanks and are trying to arrange a rescue, so the fighting has become fierce in the area," al-Amir told Reuters by Skype.

Rebels have been trying to attack air bases in particular, in the hopes of grounding some of Assad's air power.

The fighting has increasingly encroached on Assad's seat of power in the capital of Damascus as well.

On Saturday, opposition activists said that nearly half of the roads and entrances to the capital had been closed except to military vehicles but had given no explanation for the tightened security.

(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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Comments (3)
For one, the video of the so called ‘airbase’ does not even show a runway… it looks more like a deserted cattle station with no visible structures at all.

Two, the video does not show destroyed tanks. Which means they are probably Islamist tanks.

Three, I looked everywhere around this town on google earth (image dated 2012) and there is no airbase anywhere to be seen.

Four, it would take about 5,000 islamists to control this large town of 60,000+ people. Much less to terrorize the residents there.

Five, the town and islamist positions are about a 5 minute trip by helicopter or fighter jet from the military airbase Syrian forces still control to the north.

Six, even if the islamists have managed to gain a foothold in this area it is still the furthest possible area from Damascus in the country.

Seven, the most likely reason they have chosen to attack this town is because they plan to bring in the sunni terrorist elements from Iraq 5 minutes across the border to the east.

Yes the same terrorists and islamist insurgents the US has been fighting for the last 8 years.

Saddams loyalists. The butchers of Iraq responsible for countless market bombings and mass murder across the country.

I deduced all this in about 10 minutes, thanks for nothing reuters…

Nov 18, 2012 12:13am EST  --  Report as abuse
“Syria rebels say seize airport near Iraqi border”

Oh my god… so after doing a little more digging I found the “airport” that the Islamists have “seized”…

It is a dirt strip in the middle of nowhere that a plane could not even take off or land on!

And the distance from the airport to the town the rebels apparently now control is exactly the same distance from this town to the actual Syrian Airforce base to the north – 70km away.

The significance of this tiny dirt strip is miniscule, and reuters has actually posted a snippet of video that was the LEAST islamist in nature they could find!

Watch the other Islamist videos and check out the “airport” and location here:

What an absolute fail!!! Great journalism guys! =)

Nov 18, 2012 1:38am EST  --  Report as abuse
Yesyes wrote:
@pendingapproval So this is the article you claimed “disappeared” is it? It’s simply amazing what you expect people to believe

Nov 18, 2012 9:51am EST  --  Report as abuse
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