Published — Monday 4 March 2013
Last update 5 March 2013 5:51 am
BEIRUT: Hundreds of Syrian troops and rebels were killed in a weeklong battle for a police academy in the northern province of Aleppo, with insurgents seizing control of most of the complex, a monitoring group said yesterday.
“Rebels have seized most of a police academy in Khan Al-Assal in Aleppo province ... after eight days of fighting that left 200 troops and rebels dead,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Britain-based group said at least 120 army troops were among those killed in the battle for one of the regime’s last remaining bastions in the west of Aleppo province. On Sunday alone, rebels had killed more than 34 troops at the facility.
A police source in Aleppo confirmed that much of the academy had fallen into rebel hands, reporting that 40 troops were believed dead. As many as 300 rebels were among those killed, he said.
Amateur video shot by fighters and distributed by the anti-regime Aleppo Media Center showed a black flag flying over one of the academy buildings, while a large poster of President Bashar Assad had been torn.
Another video showed rebels aboard a captured military vehicle and stashes of ammunition seized from the academy.
Elsewhere, three mortars hit an area near the army general command headquarters and a customs complex in the heart of Damascus, said the Observatory.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday Assad was “delusional” for failing to see that the bloodshed in his country was at his own hands.
Hague said that he would this week announce more assistance to the Syrian opposition in the form of nonlethal equipment and refused to rule out the possibility of arming them in the future.
In an interview with British newspaper The Sunday Times, Assad accused London of wanting to arm terrorists in his country.
“How can we expect them to make the violence less while they want to send military supplies to the terrorists and don’t try to ease the dialogue between the Syrians?” Assad said in a rare interview with Western media.
Hague told BBC television: “This is a man presiding over this slaughter. “And the message to him is we, Britain, are the people sending food and shelter and blankets to help people driven from their homes and families in his name.
“We are the people sending medical supplies to try to look after people injured and abused by the soldiers working for this man.
“Assad thinks and is told by his inner circle that all of this is an international conspiracy, not the actual rebellion and revolt of his own people.
“This will go down as one of the most delusional interviews that any national leader has given in modern times.”
Iraq shut a border crossing with Syria yesterday after fighters seized the other side of the frontier post from his army, Iraqi military sources said. The Iraqi army fired warning shots into the air late on Friday as Syrian insurgents fought government forces in the Syrian town of Yaarabiya and eventually seized the border post.
“Iraqi authorities were ordered to shut off Rabia border crossing until further notice because of the Syrian government’s lack of control over the other side of the post,” police said.