Syria fighters hit air base used to attack Aleppo

Updated 04 August 2012

Syria fighters hit air base used to attack Aleppo

ALEPPO: Syrian rebels shelled yesterday an air base being used by regime forces to pound the northern city of Aleppo, as a rights watchdog reported 43 people killed in a raid near Damascus.
"Menagh military airport was bombarded yesterday morning by a tank captured previously by the rebels," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said of the base 30 kilometers (18 miles) northwest of the country's commercial capital.
An AFP reporter who witnessed the bombardment said rebels told him it was "an attack to take this airport being used by helicopters and planes that are firing on Aleppo."
The United Nations confirmed on Wednesday that rebels battling President Bashar Assad's regime now had heavy armour, and that its military observers had seen the Syrian military use a fighter jet to attack rebels in Aleppo.
AFP correspondents on the ground have reported that rebels have captured a number of tanks, and some armoured units have defected with their vehicles.
It is difficult to get an overall picture of the situation inside Aleppo itself because of a lack of independent sources and restrictions on journalists.
The Observatory and an activist said mobile phone and Internet services in Aleppo have been cut since Wednesday, and a security source in Damascus told AFP such cuts are "generally the precursor to a major military offensive."
Yesterday's air base assault comes after US President Barack Obama was reported to have signed a covert document authorizing US support for the rebels.
The directive was contained in a "finding" — a device authorizing clandestine action by the Central Intelligence Agency, TV channels said, citing unidentified sources.
White House officials declined to comment, but did not specifically rule out the idea that Washington was providing more intelligence support to anti-Assad forces than had previously been made public.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Jordan yesterday for talks on Syria.
"Both of our nations share concerns about what is happening in Syria and the impact that that could have on regional stability," he told reporters.
The Observatory said a security forces raid southwest of Damascus killed 43 people, some of whom were tortured and executed.
"Regime forces entered the Jdaidet Artuz district on Wednesday and arrested around 100 young people who were taken to a school and tortured," it said.
"On Thursday morning after the operation the bodies of 43 people were recovered. Some of them had been summarily executed."
The Observatory had reported on Wednesday 28 civilians killed in the raid. A resident of neighbouring Artuz said the army had shelled the village from Jdaidet Artuz.
"There's nobody. Not one shop is open; the houses have been deserted by their inhabitants fearing violence — everyone has fled," the resident said. Nationwide, 163 people were killed on Wednesday including 98 civilians and 20 rebels, said the Observatory, which has estimated that more than 20,000 people have died since mid-March last year.


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 55 min 49 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.