DAMASCUS, Syria, Syrian regime forces on Monday recaptured an air base on the eastern outskirts of the capital, ending more than three years of rebel control over the facility.
Syrian state news reported forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad seized the Marj al-Sultan air base and the nearby village of the same name, as well as adjacent farmlands in Eastern Ghouta, an agricultural area in the Damascus countryside.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported regime troops were advancing upon the area on Sunday, and the BBC quoted the monitoring group as saying pro-Assad forces seized the facility the following day.
Rebels first captured the base in November 2012, and the Syrian military, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, began assaulting the facility a month ago.
According to SANA, regime forces targeted militants with Jaish al-Islam, the largest rebel coalition in the area, and the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s branch in Syria.
More than 50 people were reportedly killed Sunday in the eastern Damascus countryside as rebels and pro-Assad forces targeted each other with indirect fire. Activists say regime airstrikes killed at least 45 people in suburbs around the capital, while state news reported six people, including two children, were killed by rebel shellfire in government-held neighborhoods.
The seizure of the air base is seen as a rare victory in an opposition stronghold and comes after a series of rebel groups — including Jaish al-Islam and other rebel coalitions that call for Assad’s removal — met in Saudi Arabia to hammer out a unified framework for upcoming negotiations with the Syrian government.
By Fred Lambert