This is clearly part of a strategy by the Free Syrian Army to go after the biggest threat to their urban campaigns in Damascus and Aleppo: President Assad’s bombers and helicopter gun ships.
Opposition fighters in Syria said early Saturday that they had captured an air defense base in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, taking at least 16 soldiers captive and seizing weapons and ammunition in what appeared to be part of a broader rebel offensive against Syrian military installations across the country.
Rebel fighters in the province also attacked a military air base, according to activist groups, the third attack on an air force site in the past few days. Last week, rebel commanders claimed to have destroyed several helicopters during attacks on two separate military airports in Idlib Province.
Grainy videos that activists said were taken in the aftermath of the assault on the air defense base showed rebels strolling in a darkened building, with the bodies of government soldiers lying on the ground and crates of ammunition strewn about. The videos show rocket-propelled grenade rounds, heavy machine-gun ammunition and what appear to be shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles. It is not clear whether some of the missiles have the necessary components to make them functional.
Opposition fighters have been desperate to acquire antiaircraft weapons to counter the Syrian government’s increasing and often indiscriminate use of air power. At the same time, their efforts to acquire the missiles have also raised concerns about the spread of those weapons in the region.
Meanwhile, Syrian warplanes and ground forces bombarded Aleppo on Saturday and soldiers clashed with rebels in the city’s narrow streets, activists told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Syrian warplanes bombed the country’s largest city, Aleppo, as the two sides fight for control:
he Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes in Aleppo were concentrated in several tense neighborhoods—Hanano, Bustan al-Qasr, Sukkari and Maysar. It reported injuries and damage to buildings.
Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, said the government was making heavy use of warplanes in attacking rebel areas.
A video showed rebel fighters, some in civilian clothes, in the street trading fire with government troops.
Activists say that this is the second day of a rebel push in Aleppo dubbed “Northern Volcano” targeting security facilities in the city and the surrounding province, including an artillery training school, a compound of the feared air force intelligence, and a large army checkpoint.
For over a year after the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad regime began in March 2011, Aleppo and Damascus stayed relatively quiet. But in July, rebels launched a brazen attack on the two cities, capturing several neighborhoods.
Government forces have regained most of the Damascus area but are being held at bay in Aleppo.
This is the reason that the uprising in Syria has largely fallen off the front pages of the world’s newspapers. Assad’s forces aren’t strong enough to destroy the rebels and the rebels lack the firepower to defeat the Syrian military or hold any ground once captured. It’s a stalemate where the only thing that changes day to day is the body count.
Turkey, which has so far absorbed 100,00 Syrian refugees is pleading with the UN to create “safe havens” inside Syria to handle the huge number of internally displaced people. These camps would be run by the UN and defended by a UN sponsored force.
However, since the UN is unlikely to act, Turkey is thinking seriously of calling on NATO for help. But there is little appetite in Europe or the US to supply troops to protect the camps so it is likely the world will limp along with Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon — Syria’s neighbors — dealing with the humanitarian crisis on an ad hoc basis.