Rebels capture more than half of strategic air base

Beirut Lebanon – Hundreds of Islamic militants fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad seized parts of a strategic northwestern air base Thursday after weeks of battling government troops for control of the sprawling facility.

At stake is the biggest field for helicopters used to bomb rebel-held areas in the north and deliver supplies for regime forces.

Opposition fighters and activists said rebels broke into Taftanaz air base in the northern Idlib province Wednesday night and by Thursday had seized control of more than half of it. Intense battles were still raging, and one activist said rebels had suffered losses.

On Thursday evening, an activist near Taftanaz said the government bombed the air base from warplanes in a desperate attempt to push back rebels who seized several helicopters. The account from the activist, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals, could not immediately be confirmed.

An amateur video posted by activists online showed smoke rising from behind helicopters parked at the Taftanaz tarmac, and a narrator said it was the result of an airstrike. The video appeared consistent with Associated Press reporting.

Meanwhile, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said 48 former captives held for more than five months returned on Thursday to Tehran after being freed by Syrian rebels in the first major prisoner swap of the civil war.

The rebel attack on the Taftanaz base is part of a wider attempt to chip away at the Syrian regime’s air supremacy, which poses the biggest obstacle to the opposition fighters’ advances.

As its control of large swaths of territory has slipped over the past year, the government has increasingly relied on its warplanes and helicopters to strike rebel-held areas.

The rebels have been besieging Taftanaz for months and launched an offensive to take the base in early November.

Its fall would be an embarrassing blow to the regime but not fully stop airstrikes by government jets, many of which come from bases farther south.

“If the fighters seize full control of Taftanaz air base and manage to keep it, it would be the first major military airport to fall into rebel hands,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Taftanaz lies near the highway between the capital Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, a major front in a civil war that has locked rebels and government troops in a stalemate for months. Several past rebel attempts to capture the Taftanaz base have failed.

Abdul-Rahman, who relies on a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said the rebels involved in the attack on Taftanaz were Islamic militants. He said estimated their number to be about 700 and said they included members of Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated with al-Qaida, and groups with a similar Islamic ideology.

Members of al-Nusra, which the U.S. has branded a terrorist organization, have been among the most effective fighters in the rebels’ battle to oust Assad.

The opposition has seized several other air defense bases in the north and Damascus suburbs, making off with weapons and ammunition but in most cases have not managed to retain the facilities.

The conflict began in March 2011 with peaceful protests against the Assad family dynasty, which has ruled Syria for four decades. But a ferocious crackdown on demonstrators led many to take up arms against the government, and the uprising soon transformed into a civil war.

As the death toll mounted, Assad, a 47-year-old eye doctor by training, has become a global pariah. Russia, China and Iran are among his last remaining allies, and the Iranians who were held captive in Syria were a major bargaining chip for factions trying to bring down his regime.

The former captives left Damascus on a special flight Thursday, a day after rebels freed the group in exchange for the release of more than 2,000 prisoners held by Syrian authorities.

Iran’s state TV broadcast images of the 48 Iranians walking down the steps at Mehrabad airport in Tehran. They were greeted by Foreign Ministry officials, lawmakers and about 300 relatives and friends.

Some family members and the freed prisoners burst into tears and embraced each other as they saw their loved ones for the first time after more than five months in captivity. While relatives greeted them with flowers, others whistled as the 48 showed up one by one.

The prisoner release was the result of a deal struck after rare negotiations involving regional powers Turkey, Qatar and Iran.

Rebels claimed the captives were linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, but Tehran has denied that, saying the men were pilgrims visiting Shiite religious sites in Syria.

Also Thursday, Syria accused the joint U.N.-Arab League peace envoy of “flagrant bias,” further complicating diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed.

In a strongly worded statement, Syria’s Foreign Ministry criticized international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for comments he made to the media, saying he has “diverted from the core of his mission” in favor of those who “conspire” against Syria.

The statement was the strongest criticism of Brahimi since he took over the post last summer after veteran diplomat Kofi Annan stepped down in frustration.

In a BBC interview, Brahimi called for real, not cosmetic change in Syria and accused Assad of resisting the aspirations of his people.

“The time of reforms granted magnanimously from above is past,” Brahimi said.

“I think that what people (in Syria) are saying is that a family ruling for 40 years is a little bit too long so the change has to be real,” he added. “I think that President Assad could take the lead in responding to the aspirations of his people rather than resisting it.”

Brahimi’s comments during a visit to Cairo came a few days after Assad outlined his vision for a peace initiative that would keep him in power to oversee a national reconciliation conference, elections and a new government.

In a speech Sunday, a defiant Assad ignored international demands to step down and said he was ready to talk – but only with those “who have not betrayed Syria.”

The opposition rejected his offer, which also drew harsh international criticism.

Thursday’s statement from the Foreign Ministry expressed Syria’s “astonishment” at Brahimi’s remarks and said he “blatantly showed bias toward sides known for conspiring against Syria and the Syrian people.”

“We had expected Brahimi to read and analyze the contents of (Assad’s proposed) political initiative, which is the only exit to the Syrian crisis,” the ministry said.

At least 60,000 people have been killed in the war, according to a recent U.N. estimate, and all international efforts so far to bring about a peaceful transition have failed.

Despite significant rebel advances on the battlefield, the opposition remains outgunned by government forces and has been unable to break a stalemate on the ground.

In Brussels, a NATO official said the alliance on Wednesday detected the launch of an unguided, short-range ballistic missile in the country.

The official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity in line with the alliance’s rules, also said Assad’s forces fired ballistic missiles at opposition-held areas twice earlier this month. The official said all the missiles were fired from inside Syria at unconfirmed targets in the north.

Associated Press

  • Hannibal

    They are getting closer… Tick Tock Tick Tock tickity tickity tickity tock…

    • IraniAngel

      you will turn 200 before they get close enough.

      • Hannibal

        Thanks Irani… I do take my vitamins, exercise, eat well, do not drink alcohol and never smoked, and intend to live long inshallah… But 200 is really generous of you… Thanks again.

        • Persistent

          Add to your routine, studies reveal if we make love more often it is destined to lengthen our life as well, I believe it is a win-win situation…… I thought I would pass it on…. something to consider…..

        •  Do you really want to live to 200? Just think of what will stop working by that age 😉
          Doubt viagra will help either.

      •  Keep living in lala land. It must be nice to live in a dream.

      • nagy_michael2

        IraniAngel we the Lebanese who have suffere for so long under Syrian control unlike the likes of Hezbollah would like to see the war go on for 200 years. Its because we cursed whoever attacked us. Whether it may be Israelis or Syrians and Iranians in one form or another. They will all tast war of their own and defeats. The reason Assad will surive longer because he is got lots of powers helping him directly unlike the FSA who gets machines guns and machettes. But its okay with even with the fledgeling Free Syrian Army they’re still defeating your Iranians Guds Brigade, Hezbollah and most of all the Syrian army in many areas. The latest defeat was taking over the airport recently. so again after what the pussycats of Assad caused us so much misery we’re happy to see him in misery. you don’t get it do you. Finally Israel hit you in the nail. They’re getting their their main enemies involved in constant war and they just sit and watch.. happy fighting IraniAngel..Why don’t watch over your hezbollah and save them  from getting killd. Pitty you call yourself an Angel.. it seems you’re Angel of Death..

        • nagy_michael2

          Sorry for my mispellings words my keyboard keys are getting stuck..

        • Moe28

          You need to stop masturbating on your keyboard dude,

  • Hannibal

    They are getting closer… Tick Tock Tick Tock tickity tickity tickity tock…

    • IraniAngel

      you will turn 200 before they get close enough.

      • Hannibal

        Thanks Irani… I do take my vitamins, exercise, eat well, do not drink alcohol and never smoked, and intend to live long inshallah… But 200 is really generous of you… Thanks again.

        • Persistent

          Add to your routine, studies reveal if we make love more often it is destined to lengthen our life as well, I believe it is a win-win situation…… I thought I would pass it on…. something to consider…..

        •  Do you really want to live to 200? Just think of what will stop working by that age 😉
          Doubt viagra will help either.

      •  Keep living in lala land. It must be nice to live in a dream.

      • nagy_michael2

        IraniAngel we the Lebanese who have suffere for so long under Syrian control unlike the likes of Hezbollah would like to see the war go on for 200 years. Its because we cursed whoever attacked us. Whether it may be Israelis or Syrians and Iranians in one form or another. They will all tast war of their own and defeats. The reason Assad will surive longer because he is got lots of powers helping him directly unlike the FSA who gets machines guns and machettes. But its okay with even with the fledgeling Free Syrian Army they’re still defeating your Iranians Guds Brigade, Hezbollah and most of all the Syrian army in many areas. The latest defeat was taking over the airport recently. so again after what the pussycats of Assad caused us so much misery we’re happy to see him in misery. you don’t get it do you. Finally Israel hit you in the nail. They’re getting their their main enemies involved in constant war and they just sit and watch.. happy fighting IraniAngel..Why don’t watch over your hezbollah and save them  from getting killd. Pitty you call yourself an Angel.. it seems you’re Angel of Death..

        • nagy_michael2

          Sorry for my mispellings words my keyboard keys are getting stuck..

        • Moe28

           You need to stop masturbating on our keyboard dude,

  • Persistent

    H’mm… The UN envoy, the Russians and the Americans are negotiating the fate of the Syrians…. No deal around the corner says the UN envoy…… Indigenous revolution seeking human rights, freedom and democracy….I presume that is what happens when you let the outside world exploit your divisions and make a chess game out of your lives and future…… This very old cliche “divide and conquer” still works like a charm….Wake up people…. 
    I wonder where do the Syrians fit in this equation?

    • dateam

      well said

  • Persistent

    H’mm… The UN envoy, the Russians and the Americans are negotiating the fate of the Syrians…. No deal around the corner says the UN envoy…… Indigenous revolution seeking human rights, freedom and democracy….I presume that is what happens when you let the outside world exploit your divisions and make a chess game out of your lives and future…… This very old cliche “divide and conquer” still works like a charm….Wake up people…. 
    I wonder where do the Syrians fit in this equation?

    • dateam

      well said

  • Prophettttt

    Persistent,Woody Allen  hit the nail on the head when he said:“I don’t know the question, but sex is definitely the answer.”
     I agree with you that  frequent  good sex ( Notice that I didn’t say love, because Sex relieves tension while love causes it,lol) promotes longevity and good health.Good sex helps you to look younger,and  leaves you with a positive sense of psychological and emotional well-being.Frequent orgasms can be effective in treating depression,and  stress.
    Sex is a pain reliever, too. So go on pro, more Punta Punta ,lol .You’ll live longer,and you will always look better.

    • Persistent

      lol…

    • I don’t agree with your analysis. I have sex at least 3 times a day (not just because i want to but because i need to) but still feel stressed and at times depressed. According to your analysis i would be suicidal without sex.
      Maybe sex without politics is the answer.

      • Prophettttt

        Sorry Preview,I’m not a sex therapist,bro.But I hope you will find cure to these issues.

        •  never asked you for therapy. You made a point and i responded. no need to be nasty. btw im enjoying these “issues” as you call them. My guess is you aren’t getting as much, hence the nasty comment.

      • Hannibal

        3 times a day? unless you are employed by Playboy magazine how do you pull this out. Well some of us have to go to work and some of us don’t.

        •  quite easily. once before work. once after work. and once before bed. 🙂

        • 5thDrawer

          Maybe is Why I switched to scotch ….

      • Prophettttt

        Good for you Preview. Just reread your reply comment,and you should realize that you were stating your issues.  I don’t see the nastiness in anything I said to you. You’re just too sensitive and therefore you should not reply to my comments if you can’t handle exchanges that do not please you. Enjoy your issues,and best of luck  with your depression,and I hope your stress goes away.
        This is not worth an argument. I’ll let you win anyway ,so that both of us are winners.

        •  You are seriously one nasty person

        •  You don’t see anything nasty in what you said? Telling someone they need a “therapist” is not nasty? You truly are a nasty piece of work. No wonder you play with birds coz obviously your missus doesn’t wanna play with someone as nasty as you.

        • Prophettttt

          LOL,BIRDS? Where did that come from? .No need to answer.Thank you preview, You’re such a nice guy,and it’s always ” pleasure” talking to you.

        • My mistake re birds. That is geo.
          You are what is termed a passive aggressive. The worst kind of human in my opinion.
          Oh and if you didn’t notice this is a PUBLIC forum, which means i can reply to any comment including nasty people.

        •  “depression”
          Psychiatry. a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason.

          See how nasty you are? I never said anything about suffering “depression”. I said “DEPRESSED”. sad and gloomy; dejected; downcast.Geez according to you anyone who feels “sad” or “gloomy” should seek a “therapist”. Again you are nasty

      • Prophettttt

        Thank you  for explaining that “depressed”has nothing to do with “depression”,and thank you for all the nice complements. Good luck brother, I have no time to waist .

        •  lmfao you just don’t understand the English language properly do you? I NEVER stated depressed has “nothing to do with” depression. I stated that depression is a clinical term while anyone can be depressed without being in a clinical depression. Example: I get depressed about your hero asshead massacring innocent children and women but that does NOT mean i suffer clinical depression because of it. Whereas depression is a more severe form of being depressed that requires “therapy”!!! Seriously stick to your native tongue if you don’t understand English properly!

      • Prophettttt

        Preview,
        Your anger may have been a result of your stress, Here a solution to your stress issue. 

      • Prophettttt

        Enjoy this kit,preview.
        You refuse to understand,and you refuse to take a hint. No need to exchange with me from now and on. When you notice that My English skills have improved to your level, then you talk to me. Good look anyway.

        • “blah blah blah When you notice that My English skills have improved to your level, then you talk to me. Good LOOK anyway.”
          Btw no need to capitalize the letter M in the word “My”.
          Jesus Christ all this in a 3 sentence comment. You just prove my point better than i could regarding your poor English grammar. 🙂
          Oh one more from a 3 sentence comment lmfao
          “No need to exchange with me from now and on” omg this is hilarious

          LOL obviously it hasn’t improved.
          “anger”?? lmfao keep being a passive aggressive. people like you literally disgust me

      • Prophettttt

        lol.
        Make a good use out of the “Stress Reduction Kit”
        I’ve tried to be very nice to you ,but you really have some issues .

        •  Are you liking your own comments? lmfao

        •  “Make Use Out “The Stress Reduction Kit””
          LMFAO and you continue to prove my point regarding your English

        • FreetheME

          Yes Prophet, he has an issue, Its called being dopey. Unfortunately it has no cure.

      • Prophettttt

        LOL.

      • FreetheME

        Wow Preview, 3 times a day. Your rectum must be in a lot of pain.

        • 5thDrawer

          LOL … 😉

          • Preview

            I actually expected more from you. Very disappointing.

          • FreetheME

            Loosen up for God sake. We are only having a joke.

        • Preview

          @freetheretard nice to know you are interested in my rectum but it’s out of bounds for you! The closest you will ever get to it is in your dreams.

  • Prophettttt

    Persistent,Woody Allen  hit the nail on the head when he said:“I don’t know the question, but sex is definitely the answer.”
     I agree with you that  frequent  good sex ( Notice that I didn’t say love, because Sex relieves tension while love causes it,lol) promotes longevity and good health.Good sex helps you to look younger,and  leaves you with a positive sense of psychological and emotional well-being.Frequent orgasms can be effective in treating depression,and  stress.
    Sex is a pain reliever, too. So go on pro, more Punta Punta ,lol .You’ll live longer,and you will always look better.

    • Persistent

      lol…

    •  I don’t agree with your analysis. I have sex at least 3 times a day (not because i want to but because i need to) but still feel stressed and at times depressed. According to your analysis i would be suicidal without sex.
      Maybe sex without politics is the answer.

      • Prophettttt

        Sorry Preview,I’m not a sex therapist,bro.But I hope you will find cure to these issues.

        •  never asked you for therapy. You made a point and i responded. no need to be nasty. btw im enjoying these “issues” as you call them. My guess is you aren’t getting as much, hence the nasty comment.

      • Hannibal

        3 times a day? unless you are employed by Playboy magazine how do you pull this out. Well some of us have to go to work and some of us don’t.

        •  quite easily. once before work. once after work. and once before bed. 🙂

        • 5thDrawer

          Maybe is Why I switched to scotch ….

      • Prophettttt

        Good for you Preview. Just reread your reply comment,and you should realize that you were stating your issues.  I don’t see the nastiness in anything I said to you. You’re just too sensitive and therefore you should not reply to my comments if you can’t handle exchanges that do not please you. Enjoy your issues,and best of luck  with your depression,and I hope your stress goes away.

        •  You are seriously one nasty person

        •  You don’t see anything nasty in what you said? Telling someone they need a “therapist” is not nasty? You truly are a nasty piece of work. No wonder you play with birds coz obviously your missus doesn’t wanna play with someone as nasty as you.

        • Prophettttt

          LOL,BIRDS? Where did that come from? .No need to answer.Thank you preview, You’re such a nice guy,and it’s always ” pleasure” talking to you.

        • My mistake re birds. That is geo.
          You are what is termed a passive aggressive. The worst kind of human in my opinion.
          Oh and if you didn’t notice this is a PUBLIC forum, which means i can reply to any comment including nasty people.

        •  “depression”
          Psychiatry. a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason.

          See how nasty you are? I never said anything about suffering “depression”. I said “DEPRESSED”. sad and gloomy; dejected; downcast.Geez according to you anyone who feels “sad” or “gloomy” should seek a “therapist”. Again you are nasty

      • Prophettttt

        Thank you  for explaining that “depressed”has nothing to do with “depression”,and thank you for all the nice complements.Splitting hair can be a carrier too.Good luck.

        •  lmfao you just don’t understand the English language properly do you? I NEVER stated depressed has “nothing to do with” depression. I stated that depression is a clinical term while anyone can be depressed without being in a clinical depression. Example: I get depressed about your hero asshead massacring innocent children and women but that does NOT mean i suffer clinical depression because of it. Whereas depression is a more severe form of being depressed that requires “therapy”!!! Seriously stick to your native tongue if you don’t understand English properly!

      • Prophettttt

        Preview,
        Your anger may have been a result of your stress, Here a solution to your stress issue. 

      • Prophettttt

        Enjoy this kit,preview.

        • “blah blah blah When you notice that My English skills have improved to your level, then you talk to me. Good LOOK anyway.”
          Btw no need to capitalize the letter M in the word “My”.
          Jesus Christ all this in a 3 sentence comment. You just prove my point better than i could regarding your poor English grammar. 🙂
          Oh one more from a 3 sentence comment lmfao
          “No need to exchange with me from now and on” omg this is hilarious

          LOL obviously it hasn’t improved.
          “anger”?? lmfao keep being a passive aggressive. people like you literally disgust me

      • Prophettttt

        lol.

        •  Are you liking your own comments? lmfao

        •  “Make Use Out “The Stress Reduction Kit””
          LMFAO and you continue to prove my point regarding your English

        • FreetheME

          Yes Prophet, he has an issue, Its called being dopey. Unfortunately it has no cure.

      • Prophettttt

        LOL.

      • FreetheME

        Wow Preview, 3 times a day. Your rectum must be in a lot of pain.

        • 5thDrawer

          LOL … 😉

          • Preview

            I actually expected more from you. Very disappointing.

          • FreetheME

            Loosen up for God sake. We are only having a joke.

        • Preview

          @freetheretard nice to know you are interested in my rectum but it’s out of bounds for you! The closest you will ever get to it is in your dreams.

  • Persistent

    Prophet,
     
    I carefully chose the word “love” on purpose for the sole reason it may be less offensive, but I fully agree with your analysis and articulation of the word. You are sounding like a therapist… lol ..Now without getting mushy mushy on the subject and being labeled as “perverted”, I try to get as much of it as I can. May be that is why I am a happier person…Now that explains why my friends keep telling me, I look “mushabshib” for a middle age man…I prefer this subject over politics any day….It definitely puts a grin on our faces, doesn’t…. 

    Could it be that the young in the region is so angry and stressed due to the lack of sex… we may be on to something here…..let’s keep digging and we might be able to find a cure to this stress and anger epidemic…..lol

    • Prophettttt

      Persistent, I’m   sure  that  sometimes,  you’ve   caught  yourself   smiling   for  no reason, and  then   you  realized  why……. ….Smiley  lips  are  so  welcoming  that  they  always   lead  to  grinning  faces  ,lol.
      Now  you  know  that  Punta  Punta  and  Mushy  Mushy  are  keeping  you  persistently  “mushabshib”  lol
      Who wants to talk politics after this ? Not me.

    • “Could it be that the young in the region is so angry and stressed due to the lack of sex”
      You could be onto something there, coz if i don’t get sex then im ready to kill someone (figuratively speaking of course).
      Could explain why asshead is killing so many people. his bimbo wife must not be putting out.

      • FreetheME

        It is quite clear you don’t like Assad, however why would you call his wife a bimbo. Do you even know her. Is this your thought on all females. Would you appreciate someone saying the same thing about you mother or sister or wife. This just shows that you are nothing more than a extremist like these animals fighting in Syria. Now go punch you wife in the face.  

  • Persistent

    Prophet,
     
    I carefully chose the word “love” on purpose for the sole reason it may be less offensive, but I fully agree with your analysis and choice of word. You sounding like a therapist… lol ..Now without getting mushy mushy on the subject and being labeled as “perverted”, I try to get as much of it as I can. Now I know why my friends keep telling me, I look “mushabshib” for a middle aged man…I prefer this subject over politics any day….It definitely puts a grin on our faces, doesn’t…. 

    Could it be that the young in the region is so angry and stressed due to the lack of sex… we may be on to something here…..let’s keep digging and we might be able to find a cure to this stress and anger epidemic…..lol   

    • Prophettttt

      I’m   sure  that  sometimes,  you’ve   caught  yourself   smiling   for  no reason, and  then   you  realized  why……. ….Smiley  lips  are  so  welcoming  that  they  always   lead  to  grinning  faces  ,lol.
      Now  you  know  that  Punta  Punta  and  Mushy  Mushy  are  keeping  you  persistently  “mushabshib”  lol
      Who wants to talk politics after this ? Not me.

    • “Could it be that the young in the region is so angry and stressed due to the lack of sex”
      You could be onto something there, coz if i don’t get sex then im ready to kill someone (figuratively speaking of course).
      Could explain why asshead is killing so many people. his bimbo wife must not be putting out.

      • FreetheME

        It is quite clear you don’t like Assad, however why would you call his wife a bimbo. Do you even know her. Is this your thought on all females. Would you appreciate someone saying the same thing about you mother or sister or wife. This just shows that you are nothing more than a extremist like these animals fighting in Syria. Now go punch you wife in the face.  

  • dateam

    Hundreds of Islamic militants fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad seized parts of a strategic northwestern air base Thursday after weeks of battling government troops for control of the sprawling facility…i dont get it are the rebels on one side of the base and the syrian army on the other side? who to believe?

  • dateam

    Hundreds of Islamic militants fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad seized parts of a strategic northwestern air base Thursday after weeks of battling government troops for control of the sprawling facility…i dont get it are the rebels on one side of the base and the syrian army on the other side? who to believe?