Al Qaeda Linked Rebels Capture Military Airport Near Aleppo, Syria
Islamist rebels have overrun the al-Jarrah military airbase, close to the city of Aleppo, taking control of the facility from government forces.
Air power is one of the government’s most effective weapons against rebel fighters, so the fall of the al-Jarrah airbase is a major blow to the regime and could significantly hamper their war effort in Aleppo, formerly the commercial hub of Syria and currently still a contested city which has seen some of the heaviest fighting throughout the war.
A combined force of rebels from a range of Islamist brigades led the assult on al-Jarrah. According to The Long War Journal the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, played a leading role in the operation, alongside the Islamist Ahrar al Sham Brigades. These two groups have conducted a number of joint operations in Syria recently, including a similar operation in January which saw them take control of the Taftanaz base, a key air force base in the Idlib province.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights five rebels were killed in the assult on al-Jarrah, and 40 members of “regime forces” were either wounded or captured.
In this video footage posted on YouTube, purporting to show the attack on al-Jarrah, an Islamist fighter from the Ahrar al Sham Brigades can be heard saying that the government war planes “are now in the hands” of his group.
Reuters quote a un un-named Middle East diplomat as saying that rebels appear “to be making significant advances” in Aleppo and along the Euphrates River to the east of the city. They also say that the same diplomat claimed that rebel fighters in the capital Damascus have encroached on the central district – the heartland of government power – by ‘breaking through the ring road and establishing footholds’.7
Russia To Keep Arming Government
Anatoly Isaikin, the director of Russia’s state run arms supplier, has said that his firm will continue supplying weapons to President Assad’s government in Syria.
“In the absence of sanctions, we are continuing to fulfill our contract obligations,” he said at a recent news conference. “But these aren’t offensive weapons. We are mostly shipping air defense systems and repair equipment intended for various branches of the military.”