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The battle for Aleppo’s airports continues - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Free Syrian Army fighters prepare their ammunition near the Meng military airport, in Aleppo's countryside January 25, 2013.  REUTERS/Mahmoud Hassano

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare their ammunition near the Menarg military airport, in Aleppo’s countryside January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Mahmoud Hassano

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Sources in the Revolutionary Military Council in Aleppo have denied reports of Syrian rebels downing an Iranian civilian aircraft – loaded with ammunition – before it landed at Aleppo international airport, instead confirming that the plane came under heavy machine gun fire, forcing it to change course. Yesterday, the opposition “Aleppo News” network reported that the Syrian rebels had downed a civilian aircraft coming from Iran, loaded with weapons and missiles, last Friday. The network added that the strike was carried out at a low altitude given that the plane was preparing to land at Aleppo international airport. Aleppo News, quoting the rebels who claimed to have downed the plane, alleged that “a fire broke out inside the plane and it was damaged”, adding that the rebels saw “weapons, ammunition and rockets falling from the plane, which they could not seize because the cargo fell in an area controlled by the regime”. The network also said that the rebels had spotted the Iranian flag on the plane, which confirmed to them that it had come from Iran.

However, Revolutionary Military Council sources have denied such news, stressing in a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that this is “not accurate”. The sources explained that the rebels “confronted an Iranian plane that was preparing to land at Aleppo international airport, and shot at it with heavy automatic weaponry, forcing the plane to divert away from the airport”.

This is the second operation of its kind within the space of twenty days, after the armed opposition targeted a Syrian civilian aircraft landing at Aleppo international airport in December, firing warning shots as its wheels came to a halt.

Opposition fighters are continuing to target aircraft at Meng military airport, where activists have revealed that the rebels have damaged helicopters stationed inside the airport, using the rocket-propelled grenades and tank shells that they plundered from the regime’s forces. A military source from Aleppo told Asharq Al-Awsat that the battle for Meng airport is ongoing, stressing that the military site, located near the town of Azaz to the north of Aleppo, “will fall in the near future”.

Meanwhile, Syrian activists have posted images showing the human and material losses stemming from the aerial bombardment of Azaz market. The activists claim there have been dozens of casualties, in addition to the destroyed buildings. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced that its fighters were “making significant advances towards the entrances of Meng military airport, targeting several buildings inside”. Likewise, the FSA announced on its website that its fighters are besieging Kwers military airport, and that yesterday they damaged a plane and forced it to land on their territory.

According to military defectors, the Kwers airport site houses more than 100 warplanes, three of which have been damaged so far, along with 5 helicopters, one of which has been destroyed. The FSA website reports that the last plane to land at Kwers airport was a civilian plane transporting artillery and troops. It claims that the airport currently holds 900 of the regime’s troops and 13 artillery guns; however the base has experienced roughly 100 defections, including high-ranking officials. The FSA website pointed out that the airport is being subjected to daily bombardments from homemade rockets, and is in a state of permanent high alert.

Finally, according to local coordination committees, the Syrian rebels are continuing to bombard Neirab military airport, and yesterday morning they attacked Jarrah (another military airport in Aleppo) with rockets. This is all happening whilst the regime’s warplanes continue to carry out extensive raids on Damascus and the surrounding area.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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