Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has taken control of the strategic town of Khan El-Asal, clearing the way to the military academy, the government forces’ operations command center in Aleppo.
Syrian activists revealed that “opposition fighters have taken control of the northern town of Khan El-Asal, one of the last towns under government control on the western side of Aleppo governorate.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said government forces yesterday surrendered the town after a siege by the FSA.
The FSA earlier took control of the town of Mataa, the headquarters of the government forces, followed by the town of Summakiyah, east of the city. According to unidentified sources, more than 60 pro-Assad regime soldiers were killed, including a number of commanders. A number of military vehicles were also captured.
Activists have released videos on the Internet seemingly confirming the FSA victory. One video appears to show government tanks withdrawing from the town, while another video showed a dead body, reportedly of the government army commander in Khan El-Asal.
Yasir Al-Najjar, a member of the Higher Council of Syrian Revolution Command in Aleppo, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The control of Khan El-Asal will pave the way for the opposition fighters to advance towards the Assad Academy, which is considered to be the main operations command center for the government forces in Aleppo.”
He claimed that “only a few hundred meters separate the FSA from the academy, which will be neutralized, to open the route to New Aleppo and Al-Furqan, which would mean the complete liberation of Aleppo.”
The town is strategically important for being the last Assad stronghold in the western and northern suburbs, granting complete control of the Aleppo–Damascus road. Its liberation by the FSA will severely hamper the presence of Assad regime troops in the area, particularly as the armed opposition will be able to cut off the government forces’ supply route.
Capt. Alaa Al-Basha, a member of the Higher Council of the Syrian Revolution, a Syrian army defector, informed Asharq Al-Awsat: “The government forces planted a car laden with explosives in the Adra area, which was under the control of the FSA. The car was detonated, resulting in the deaths of a number of opposition fighters.” He added that the death toll did not exceed 15, denying reports that 50 FSA fighters had been killed.
Basha revealed that “a new consignment of advanced weapons were delivered to the Qabun area which has seen violent clashes between the FSA and government forces over the past two weeks,” adding that “the weapons are now in the hands of the fighters and include anti-tank rockets, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) and S-5 rockets, which means that government tanks and armored vehicles are now under opposition fire.”
Syrian Local Coordination Committees (LCC) have said clashes erupted in the Jober area of Damascus, while the opposition Sham News Network said the area came under bombardment by government forces. Meanwhile, activists claimed that the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp has come under mustard gas attack by government forces.
Government forces have been planning attacks in areas under FSA control in Idlib, especially the town of Ariha, which witnessed a massacre on Sunday following an air attack.
The National Coalition of Syrian Opposition and Revolution Forces has warned the international community against the consequences of “continued disregard of its duty to protect the Syrian people from the Syrian regime’s killing machine, which includes the systematic use of chemical and other internationally banned weapons against civilians.”
The national coalition also stressed that “the Assad regime has recently intensified its use of the air force in systematic revenge operations against civilians in northern Syria, exploiting the failure of the Friends of Syria group to carry out their humanitarian duties and the help of its regional and international allies to cover its crimes and guarantee military support which extends the regimes’ existence.”