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Monday, January 14, 2013
The battle for Aleppos airports continues

The battle for Aleppo’s airports continues
14/01/2013 By Nazeer Rida
http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=32551

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat - Sources in the Revolutionary Military Council in
Aleppo have denied reports of Syrian rebels downing an Iranian civilian
aircraft - loaded with ammunition - before it landed at Aleppo international
airport, instead confirming that the plane came under heavy machine gun
fire, forcing it to change course. Yesterday, the opposition “Aleppo News”
network reported that the Syrian rebels had downed a civilian aircraft
coming from Iran, loaded with weapons and missiles, last Friday. The network
added that the strike was carried out at a low altitude given that the plane
was preparing to land at Aleppo international airport. Aleppo News, quoting
the rebels who claimed to have downed the plane, alleged that “a fire broke
out inside the plane and it was damaged”, adding that the rebels saw
“weapons, ammunition and rockets falling from the plane, which they could
not seize because the cargo fell in an area controlled by the regime”. The
network also said that the rebels had spotted the Iranian flag on the plane,
which confirmed to them that it had come from Iran.

However, Revolutionary Military Council sources have denied such news,
stressing in a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that this is “not
accurate”. The sources explained that the rebels “confronted an Iranian
plane that was preparing to land at Aleppo international airport, and shot
at it with heavy automatic weaponry, forcing the plane to divert away from
the airport”.

This is the second operation of its kind within the space of twenty days,
after the armed opposition targeted a Syrian civilian aircraft landing at
Aleppo international airport in December, firing warning shots as its wheels
came to a halt.

Opposition fighters are continuing to target aircraft at Meng military
airport, where activists have revealed that the rebels have damaged
helicopters stationed inside the airport, using the rocket-propelled
grenades and tank shells that they plundered from the regime’s forces. A
military source from Aleppo told Asharq Al-Awsat that the battle for Meng
airport is ongoing, stressing that the military site, located near the town
of Azaz to the north of Aleppo, “will fall in the near future”.

Meanwhile, Syrian activists have posted images showing the human and
material losses stemming from the aerial bombardment of Azaz market. The
activists claim there have been dozens of casualties, in addition to the
destroyed buildings. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced that its fighters
were “making significant advances towards the entrances of Meng military
airport, targeting several buildings inside”. Likewise, the FSA announced on
its website that its fighters are besieging Kwers military airport, and that
yesterday they damaged a plane and forced it to land on their territory.

According to military defectors, the Kwers airport site houses more than 100
warplanes, three of which have been damaged so far, along with 5
helicopters, one of which has been destroyed. The FSA website reports that
the last plane to land at Kwers airport was a civilian plane transporting
artillery and troops. It claims that the airport currently holds 900 of the
regime’s troops and 13 artillery guns; however the base has experienced
roughly 100 defections, including high-ranking officials. The FSA website
pointed out that the airport is being subjected to daily bombardments from
homemade rockets, and is in a state of permanent high alert.

Finally, according to local coordination committees, the Syrian rebels are
continuing to bombard Neirab military airport, and yesterday morning they
attacked Jarrah (another military airport in Aleppo) with rockets. This is
all happening whilst the regime’s warplanes continue to carry out extensive
raids on Damascus and the surrounding area.

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