Syrian rebel fighters (file)
Syrian rebel fighters (file)Reuters

Syrian rebel forces seized a major army base in the southern province of Daraa on Tuesday, after 24 hours of fighting, a rebel spokesman and a monitor told AFP.

"The 52nd Brigade base was fully liberated from the regime army," said Major Essam al-Rayes, spokesman for the Southern Front rebel alliance operating in the province.

He said at least 2,000 rebel forces overran the base in a "short and quick" assault.

"This base was one of the main lines of defence for the regime forces. It was a nightmare, because they used it to shell all the areas to the east of the province," Rayes said.

The base lies near a major highway running from Damascus to Syria's southern border with Jordan.

"The base is also an important infantry base, from which the regime attacked towns and villages in the south," said Diaa al-Hariri, spokesman for Faylaq al-Awwal, one of the rebel groups in the Southern Front coalition.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said opposition groups had taken the 52nd Brigade base after clashes and intense shelling that left 14 rebel fighters and 20 government forces dead.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said regime troops withdrew to the nearby village of Al-Dara.

Rebel groups control a majority of Daraa province and its capital, according to Abdel Rahman.

Syria's official news agency SANA did not mention the capture of the base.  

But earlier, citing a military source, it said the air force had struck the area, killing at least 40 "terrorists".