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Syria rebels attack airbase in northwest: watchdog

Rebel fighters inspect the debris in a street in the Bustan al-Basha district of Aleppo on January 1, 2013
Rebel fighters inspect the debris in a street in the Bustan al-Basha district of Aleppo on January 1, 2013. Fierce fighting erupted overnight and continued Wednesday as rebels attacked regime troops stationed around an airbase in northwestern Syria causin

Fierce fighting erupted overnight and continued Wednesday as rebels attacked regime troops stationed around an airbase in northwestern Syria causing casualties on both sides, a watchdog said.

Clashes between mostly jihadist rebel fighters and President Bashar al-Assad's forces at Taftanaz airbase in Idlib province killed four insurgents and an unknown number of soldiers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The rebel assault came after authorities announced the temporary closure of the international airport in Aleppo province on Tuesday, after days of attacks there by the insurgents who hold vast swathes of territory in northern Syria.

A local resident told AFP that the army was carrying out air raids around the Taftanaz base in an attempt to repel the multi-pronged attack headed by the Islamist groups the Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham.

Fighting also broke out around the crucial Wadi Deif base, one of the last regime bastions in northwestern Syria, the Britain-based Observatory said, in a fresh jihadist-led bid to wrest control of the strategic post.

Insurgents captured the nearby town of Maaret al-Numan, located on the important Damascus-Aleppo highway, in October.

Near Damascus, regime forces bombarded districts to the southwest of the capital including Daraya, the site of a massacre last year, and where the army has been launching a fierce bid to regain control.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground to compile its tolls, reported that 104 people were killed nationwide on Tuesday, including 35 civilians.

The Syrian conflict, which started as a peaceful uprising against Assad in March 2011 but descended into civil war when it was violently suppressed, has killed more than 46,000 people, many of them civilians, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

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