Syrian Rebels Take Over Key Government Air Base

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In yet another sign that the opposition fighting Bashar al-Assad's military may be able to fend for themselves, rebel forces in Syria say they've taken full control of the Taftanaz air base, a key strategic launching point for government helicopter forces in the northern half of the country. Islamic militant groups, including Jabhat al-Nursa—recently named a terrorist organisation by the United States—have waged a weeks-long battle for the sprawling base that was a major staging area for military operations in the Idlib province. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that as of 11:00 a.m. this morning local time, "the base is entirely in rebel hands." Militants shouted in celebration after government troops abandoned the base at dawn, but took most of their remaining (working) helicopters with them. The rebels did gain control over the all base buildings, including a large weapons depot that will likely supply future battles. 

The fall of Taftanaz may only improve public support within Syria for al-Nusra, which has been criticized by the international community but seems to have done more to help turn the tide in the rebels' favor than any outside nation has. Al Jazeera reports that rebels believe that their act of taking the base without the aid of heavy anti-aircraft weapons only proves that rebels are capable of winning the war without any help from Western forces. And that lack of assistance won't be forgotten if they do.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.