Syrian opposition fighters seize key military base in Deraa

Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they cheer in Qusair town near Homs March 17, 2013. (Reuters)

Syrian opposition fighters on Saturday seized a key air base in the southern Syrian province of Daraa, bolstering access to supply routes to the capital Damascus.

The fighters also seized several military sites along the Jordanian-Syrian border, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of informants across the country.

The developments on ground Saturday give fighters control of about 25 km (15.5miles) of frontier adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Observatory said, and could fuel tensions in the sensitive military zone.

Syria’s southern provinces bordering Jordan and Israel have become an increasingly significant battleground as the capital comes into play, with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and his loyalist militias hitting back hard to prevent rebel advances.

At the air base in Deraa province, which borders Jordan, the Observatory said the brigade’s commander was among those killed.

“Fighters from the Nusra Front, Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, and other battalions seized control of the 38th division air defense base, near the town of Saida on the Damascus-Amman highway, after 16 days of fierce clashes,” the Observatory said.

Amateur video filmed by rebels and distributed by the Observatory showed the bloodied, mutilated corpse of a man identified as Mahmud Darwish, an officer.

Activists also distributed footage showing a group of men, most of them bearded, being set free.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a network of activists on the ground, said the rebels also captured a checkpoint in the Daraa town of Sahem al-Golan.

The Observatory later reported that rebels captured a second checkpoint east of Sahem al-Golan.

Amateur video showed rebels seizing at least two regime tanks and several military vehicles after they captured the checkpoint.

“I swear to God, we are coming for you, O Bashar,” a rebel said in a video distributed by anti-regime activists.

The rebel advances came days after rebels seized a border crossing on the frontier with Jordan, said the Observatory.

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Last Update: Saturday, 23 March 2013 KSA 22:23 - GMT 19:23
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