Syrian Rebels Claim Capture of Key Military Airbase
MOSCOW, January 12 (RIA Novosti) – Syrian opposition fighters have taken control over a key military airbase in the north of the country delivering another serious blow to government forces, Al-Jazeera reported.
Al-Nusra Front and other anti-government groups captured the buildings, ammunition and military equipment at the Taftanaz airbase in Idlib province on Friday, Al-Jazeera said citing the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Most of about 60 helicopters based at Taftanaz, which have been used to provide logistics support for government troops and attack rebel-held areas in the north, were pulled out in time to evade the capture, opposition activists said.
However, the pro-government Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) denied rebel reports of Taftanaz capture and claimed that the government troops had repelled an attempt to break into the airbase.
If true, the reported victory marks a significant advance for the rebels as the loss of the base will seriously hamper re-supply missions carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the area.
Meanwhile, the Friday meeting of the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva ended without a breakthrough.
With the conflict approaching its two-year mark, and the UN recently saying that total deaths may have surpassed 60,000, all international efforts to end the fighting have failed thus far, with Russia and China blocking several Western-backed UN Security Council resolutions.
Brahimi said after five-hour talks that a political solution to the Syrian conflict is unlikely to emerge in the near future.
The Syrian opposition, backed by the West and some Arab countries, has repeatedly stated that Assad must step down in order to bring about a political solution to the war in his country.