Dubai: Syrian rebels said on Saturday they had captured a military airport east of Damascus following an overnight battle with government forces.
Footage posted online showed a man with a gun standing in front of a wrecked helicopter as he announced that the rebels had taken control of the military airport of Marj Al Sultan, located in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
The video also showed a group of men touring the base, with an anti-aircraft gun seen positioned on top of a mount.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said five rebels had died of injuries sustained during the clashes around the base.
Overall, 20 people were killed in violence across Syria on Sunday.
On Saturday, Syrian rebels attacked army positions in the northern province of Aleppo while violence also raged in and around the capital.
Regime forces shelled the northeast and southwest outskirts of Damascus as clashes broke out in the western district of Kfar Sousa and in the south of the city, a watchdog said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave an initial toll of nine people killed in violence nationwide, after 61 people died on Friday, including 21 in the Damascus region.
On Saturday, troops attacked the town of Daraya near Damascus, the scene of the worst massacre in the 20-month conflict where more than 500 people were killed in late August, a cording to monitors.
“Regime forces are attempting to break into Daraya,” said the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground.
An official source quoted by state media said the assault on Daraya “led to the elimination of a number of the most dangerous terrorist snipers of Al Qaida who were holed up in the homes of displaced residents.”
News out of Syria cannot be independently verified as authorities have banned most journalists from entering the country’s restive areas.
Meanwhile, officials in Iraq told DPA that they planned to open a new camp for Syrian refugees in Al Qaim, across the border from the Syrian town of Al Bou Kamal, which has seen frequent clashes in recent months.
Iraq currently hosts some 30,000 Syrians, the majority of which are based in a camp in Dohuk, in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iran said Turkey’s plans to deploy Patriot defensive missiles near its border with Syria would add to the region’s problems, as fears grow of the Syrian civil war spilling across frontiers.
Turkey asked Nato for the Patriot system, designed to intercept aircraft or missiles, last week after talks about how to shore up security on its 900-km border.
“The installation of such systems in the region has negative effects and will intensify problems in the region,” Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said on returning from a trip to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey on Saturday evening, according to Iranian state news agency Irna.
Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, told the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) on Sunday that deploying the Patriot system “will not only not help solve the situation in Syria, it will actually make the situation more difficult and complicated as well”.
Meanwhile, Russia and France will tackle disagreements over how to deal with the Syria conflict this week when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits Paris for talks.
Medvedev, the ex-president who is considered less hardline than his mentor Vladimir Putin, will head a delegation of ministers and meet French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday.
Diplomats say the talks with Hollande are expected to focus on the Syria conflict, which has sown deep discord between Western powers and Russia and China.
“It is an issue where, there can be no doubt, we have some disagreements with France, but also some common views. Russia like France wants to find a political solution, the disagreements are over how,” said Russia’s envoy to Paris, Alexander Orlov.