Rebels claim capture of helicopter base near Damascus


Syrian rebels said yesterday they had captured a helicopter base east of Damascus after an overnight assault, their latest gain in a costly battle to unseat President Bashar al-Assad that is drawing nearer to his seat of power.

The Marj al-Sultan base, 15km from the capital, is the second military facility on the outskirts of the city reported to have fallen to Mr Assad’s opponents this month.

Activists said rebels had destroyed two helicopters and taken 15 prisoners.

“We are coming for you, Bashar,” a rebel shouted in an internet video of what activists said was Marj al-Sultan. Restrictions on non-state media meant it could not be verified.

The rebels have been firming their hold on farmland and urban centres to the east and northeast of Damascus while a major battle has been under way for a week in the suburb of Daraya near the main highway south.

A western diplomat said Mr Assad still had the upper hand. “The army will allow positions to fall here and there, but it can still easily muster the strength to drive back the rebels where it sees a danger.” – (Reuters)