Syrian Rebels Launch Assault on Military Airport
The rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Monday launched an offensive on the Menagh military airport in northern Syria. The offensive included setting off a car bomb near one of the buildings, firing missiles at armored vehicles and launching a ground assault on the airport.
The rebels expressed optimism that they will be able to take over the airport.
On Sunday, rebel forces launched an offensive against Assad’s troops in a rural area of Latakia in northwest Syria. According to initial reports, the rebels were able take over a number of Alawite villages and destroy several armored vehicles belonging to the Syrian army.
The assault on rural Latakia is meant to increase pressure on the regime and cause it to allocate forces to the region, thus disconnecting Latakia and Tartus, strongholds of the Alawite regime, from Idlib and Aleppo.
Al-Jazeera reported that the number of forces deployed by the Syrian army has dropped from 220 thousand soldiers before March of 2011, when the civil war began, to only 70 thousand only today, including 26 thousand elite forces, 12 thousand special forces and 27 thousand regular forces.
In addition, the Syrian army is being assisted by 50 thousand fighters, of which 33 thousand are pro-regime shabiha militiamen, 5,000 are terrorists from Hizbullah, 2,000 are Iraqi Shi'ite fighters and 1,500 are Shi'ite fighters from other countries.
Earlier on Monday, rebel sources accused the Syrian regime of having used chemical weapons against rebel-held areas near Damascus.
Opposition activists claimed that "Syrian regime forces" launched "a series of chemical attacks" on the Damascus suburbs of Adra and Houma.
Posting videos they said were from the scene of the attacks, activists claimed that more than 400 people had shown "signs of exposure to chemical toxic gasses, ranging from shortness of breath, seizure, convulsion, profuse sweating ...copious nasal secretions and frothy sputum."
Last week a United Nations team, led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, reached an agreement with Assad's government to enter the country and investigate allegations of use of chemical weapons in the country’s civil war.
Syrian opposition leaders said last Friday that United Nations inspectors would have "unfettered" access to areas under rebel control to investigate the use of chemical weapons.
Assad, meanwhile, said on Sunday that Syria's crisis will only be solved by stamping out "terror", promising to strike the rebels “with an iron fist."