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Syrian Rebels Begin to Focus on Syrian Air Force

Syrian rebels captured part of the Abu Zhuhoor military air base in northern Idlib on Saturday, and attacked a military airport in Aleppo.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 9/2/2012, 11:59 AM

Syrian Air Force missile strike on Idlib civilians
Syrian Air Force missile strike on Idlib civilians
Reuters

Syrian rebels captured part of the Abu Zhuhoor military air base in northern Idlib on Saturday, and attacked a military airport in Aleppo.

According to reports from the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, rebel fighters also captured more than 16 Syrian Army soldiers, including some officers, during a clash in Deir Ezzour province near the Iraqi border.

In addition, the opposition forces attacked the Kwers military airport in Aleppo and destroyed three warplanes, the Al Jazeera pan-Arab news network reported, quoting activist sources.

The Free Syrian Army, comprised of opposition forces, issued a statement Saturday on its Facebook page warning it would begin targeting civilian aircraft as well starting this week. The group said it would do so because it suspects the government is receiving arms from Russia, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon via civilian aircraft.

Last week, rebel forces downed for the first time a Syrian Army attack helicopter, and then followed that attack with several successful others. As with other reports, it is impossible to verify the details independently, given the dangerous conditions and the difficulty for journalists to enter the country. Rebel videos of the attacks have been posted online.

The focus on attacking aircraft has come after Syrian military began firing on civilians from the skies, using air force helicopters and jets. Last week, Syrian Air Force fighter jets fired missiles at Binsh near Idlib, killing civilians and transforming residential neighborhoods to rubble.

A week ago, an Iranian general brazenly announced in a speech to his troops that the country's elite Revolutionary Guards are already in Syria, fighting on behalf of government troops. It has been known for some time that Iran has been supplying technical, financial and weaponry support to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. However, the open confirmation of such a fact, not only by a military official but also by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini -- who adamantly urged the full support of the Assad regime -- underscores the depth of Iranian investment in the area.

More than 23,000 people have been killed in the civil war that began with a youth scrawling an anti-government slogan on a wall in Dera'a in March 2011, according to the United Nations and various humanitarian aid and activist organizations. Hundreds are being slaughtered each week; sometimes even within one day, by government troops using heavy artillery to shell residential neighborhoods. These are attacks are followed by troops setting out on house-to-house searches to track down activists whom they kill in an execution-style manner. Groups of such bodies have been discovered in recent weeks in numerous villages, as well as in suburbs around the Syrian capital of Damascus.