BEIRUT Oct 12 Syrian rebels captured an air
defence base east of Aleppo on Friday as government forces
battled insurgents on several fronts across the country,
Clashes were also taking place at a military barracks close
to Maarat al-Nuaman, a town on the main highway to the
northwestern city of Aleppo which was seized by rebel forces
earlier this week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The pro-opposition Observatory gave a death toll for
Thursday of more than 260 people, including civilians and
combatants on both sides in violence in the capital and the
north, west and east.
It said 92 soldiers were killed on Thursday, which would be
one of the highest daily casualty counts on the government side
since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad broke out
in March 2011.
The official SANA news agency also reported fighting
nationwide and said dozens of rebels, which it called "mercenary
terrorists", had been killed.
The reports could not be independently verified but they
indicate a rapidly intensifying conflict, with the death tolls
of the past several weeks far exceeding previous months.
Although international attention has focused on the Turkish
border in the past week, Aleppo and the city of Homs - north of
Damascus and near the border with Lebanon - are being fought
over and clashes take place almost daily in the suburbs of the
capital Damascus as well as in the countryside.
Turkey scrambled two fighter planes to the border with Syria
on Friday after a Syrian military helicopter bombed the Syrian
border town of Azmarin.
The Observatory said the air defence base seized by the
rebels was located in al-Tana village by the Koris military
airport on the road east from Aleppo to al-Raqqa.
Aleppo, Syria's largest city and commercial hub, has been
contested since July. The rebel capture of Maarat al-Nuaman cut
the highway between Aleppo and Homs, the main route for the
government to resupply and reinforce the northern city.
SANA said government forces were mounting operations to
clear Aleppo's Karm al-Jabal area of rebels on Friday.
More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict
which started out as a popular uprising against four decades of
Assad family rule then descended into civil war. The armed
forces have relied heavily on air power and artillery to hold
back the rebels.
Fighting has also spilled over the borders into Turkey,
Lebanon, Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, raising
concern that the fighting could spread across the region, now
home to 340,000 Syrian refugees.