Syrian army shells rebel-held Aleppo airbase
The Syrian army has launched an offensive against rebel soliders in the northern province of Aleppo, including areas of a key rebel-held airbase, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.
The monitoring group said that Syrian regime forces had launched multiple attacks and shelled areas of the Minnigh military airbase just one day after rebels took control of the airbase's control tower, AFP reported.
Aleppo has largely been controlled by the rebels since the civil war broke out two years ago, but army forces have been eyeing it for the past few months. The city has been witness to intense shelling and firefights, the Observatory said.
"Parts of Minnigh military airbase were shelled by regime forces... Rebels are in control of large swathes of the airbase," the Britain-based Observatory told AFP.
Other areas of Aleppo were under fire, the Observatory added, two days after state-run pro-regime media announced that the troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad would launch an offensive "within hours or days" to retake the rebel-stronghold province.
Regime forces also shelled the opposition-controlled villages of Deir Hafer and al-Bab, while the army used rocket fire to hit the insurgent stronghold of Marea, according to AFP.
The violence came almost a week after troops loyal to President Assad, and aided significantly from fighters from the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, launched a successful offensive on the strategic town of Qusayr.
With invaluable aid from Hezbollah and Iran, it seems that the Syrian regime has a new spring in its step as it moves to eradicate the presence of rebels in the north of the country.
The day after Qusyar fell, reports from the Observatory indicated that small factions of regime troops were "hunting" rebels in the north of the country.
Activists say that with the success of Qusayr under their belts, the regime will now make serious moves towards securing other stragetic and rebel-held areas of the country.
"The regime's aim is to attack the northern and western countryside of Aleppo, in order to cut off supplies to rebels elsewhere in the province," said Aleppo-based activist Mohammad al-Khatib, told AFP.
"The regime is indeed preparing for something. There have been signals of this for the past month," he added. He later dismissed the army's capabilities to make gains in Aleppo, according to AFP.
Elsewhere in the country, the Syrian army shelled rebel pcokets in the southern town of Daraa, close to the Jordanian border, where opposition forces have made gains in recent weeks whilst the army has been preoccupied.
Daraa would be a significant loss for the rebels since may consider it the birthplace of the revolution two years ago, as it held the first anti-Assad demonstrations in the dawn of the Arab Spring in 2011.
The Observatory relies on an intricate network in Syria for its information, including doctors, activists and lawyers.
Among the army's targets were districts of Daraa city, which activists refer to as the "cradle of the revolution" against Assad, as it saw