Syria rebels blast air base used to attack Aleppo

Syrian rebels today shelled 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 the capital Damascus.

“Menagh military airport was bombarded on Thursday morning by a tank captured previously by the rebels,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said of the base 30 kilometres northwest of the country’s commercial capital.

An AFP reporter who heard and saw 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 Sunday that rebels battling President Bashar al-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.

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.

Thursday’s air base assault comes after US President Barack Obama was reported to have signed a covert document authorising US support for the rebels.

The directive was contained in a “finding” — a device authorising clandestine action by the Central Intelligence Agency, NBC and CNN said, citing unidentified sources.

White House officials declined to comment on the reports, 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 Defence Secretary Leon Panetta was in Jordan on Thursday for talks on the Syria conflict.

Times of India