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Friday, December 7, 2012
FSA targeting al-Assad regime air bases - Sources

FSA targeting al-Assad regime air bases - Sources
07/12/2012
By Nazeer Rida
http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=32082

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Leading sources in the Free Syrian Army [FSA] have
announced that battalions stationed in the Rif Dimashq governorate have
“gained control of most of the air defense bases in the governorate”, adding
“operations continues to gain control of all military air bases in the
region”.

A well informed FSA source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of
anonymity, confirmed that the FSA had gained control of Aqraba military air
base, which is located between Damascus International Airport and the city
of Damascus. Aqraba air base is reportedly where the al-Assad regime
military helicopters overseeing the district of Damascus and the surrounding
area are stationed.

The sources claimed that the FSA gained control of Aqraba air base “after
violent battles with regime forces along the road to the air base and the
surrounding villages of al Ghouta al-Sharqiya”.

He added that the rebel brigades were able to “breach the fortifications of
the air base despite artillery and rocket fire targeting their location”.

This development comes shortly following the announcement of FSA control of
Marj Sultan air base last week. Syrian opposition brigades managed to enter
and take control of Marj Sultan air base, which became the first military
air base in Rif Dimashq governorate to fall into the hands of the
opposition.

Other sources confirmed that the military airports “have considerable
military strength and protective forces”, adding that the next key battle
“will be for the Sayeda Zeinab military air base, which is also home to
al-Assad regime helicopter gunships”. However, according to the sources, the
strategic importance of this particular airport lies “in its runway, which
is more than 3km long. This allows for the takeoff and landing of Sukhoi and
MiG fighter jets”.

The Rif Dimashq governorate is home to 6 military air bases; Marj Sultan and
Aqraba, which are now controlled by the opposition, Sayeda Zeinab, which
“the FSA intends to attack as soon as possible” according to sources, in
addition to Mezzeh military air base in al-Ghouta al-Gharbiya, and Damir and
Nasiriyah air bases which have been used by the regime’s helicopters
extensively throughout the current Syrian crisis.

In this regard, prominent sources in the FSA claimed that rebel forces were
now in control of “most” air defense bases located in Rif Dimashq, of which
there are 11 in total, following yesterday’s announcement that the FSA had
gained control of Air Defense Brigade 22 in al Ghouta al Sharqiya.

The source pointed out that “all types of air defense in Rif Dimashq are now
under our control, including air missile defense systems, radars and fixed
and mobile missile systems which have now become operable”. He added that
these weapons will be put into action “imminently.”

The source explained that these systems “will be used to monitor and respond
to the regime’s military aircraft as soon as our air defense specialists
arrive”.

Sources also revealed that it has been possible to seize control of these
sensitive military systems and sites “after the headquarters of the air
defense leadership fell into the hands of the rebels”. This headquarters,
commonly known as Brigade 82, was responsible for various radar apparatus
and air defense systems throughout Damascus and the surrounding area. The
sources indicated that the opposition brigades “managed to seize two
sophisticated radar devices that were found at the headquarters, in addition
to surface-to-air missiles and short and medium range surface-to-surface
missiles”.

Sources also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the regime’s forces now only control
two air defense sites in Rif Dimashq, “one located south east of Harran
al-Awamid, near Damascus International Airport, which is a very
sophisticated air defense base, including espionage stations”. As for the
second site, “this is located on Mount Kassioun”. The sources went on to say
that the latter site is located specifically above Masaken Barzeh district
and “includes surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missile systems, mounted
and ready to launch”.

At the same time, the FSA are currently conducting operations to gain
control of two military air bases in Aleppo and Deir al-Zour. Syrian
opposition websites quoted activists as saying that the FSA “has been
continuing its siege on Deir al-Zour military air base for several days”,
and likewise announced that “a battle has begun for control of the Meng
military air base in Aleppo”. Clashes are also ongoing between the regime’s
forces and the FSA in the region of Neirab and around the vicinity of Neirab
military air base, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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