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      Assad Regime Crumbling?

      Reports say rebels took over Air Force base in Homs, shell struck government building inside Damascus.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 6/10/2012, 8:55 PM

      Destruction in Syria (file)
      Destruction in Syria (file)
      Reuters

      Rebel battalions in Syria successfully took over a Presidential Air Force base near the village of Rantu in the Homs district, Saudi Arabian owned  network Al-Arabiya reported Sunday.

      According to the report, most of the soldiers in the base defected from President Bashar al-Assad's army after the rebels took over.

      The rebels say the captured base holds anti-aircraft missile batteries. A spokesman for the Syrian opposition said that the base commander, a member of Assad's minority Alawite sect, gave his soldiers a choice between defecting to rebel forces and going back to their homes and families, and they preferred to join the rebels.

      Voice of Israel radio reported that pro-regime forces deployed helicopters to mount a fierce attack on Rantu after the rebel takeover.

      Syrian opposition also said that about 35 people were killed by pro-regime forces since the morning hours and about 200 were wounded. There are reports of shelling in Homs, Rastan and Idlib.

      Arabic media also reported that for the first time, a government building in Damascus has been hit. Until now, rebel forces targeted security forces installations but not government buildings. A mortar shell reportedly hit the external wall of a Syrian government building in the Kafr Susa neighborhood of Damascus. There was damage to property but no report of casualties.

      Earlier in the day, U.N. observers said rebels had fired rocket-propelled grenades at a power station and burned six buses that were used to transport soldiers.