Beirut: Rebels launched assaults to try to take strategic airports in northern Syria on Thursday, after the United Nations revealed that the country’s civil war had already killed 60,000 people.
Insurgents battled with troops on the perimeter of the Aleppo international airport, besieging the nearby military Brigade 80 in an attempt to push through to the airport itself, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
At the same time, hundreds of fighters with two hardcore Islamist rebel groups, the Al Nusra Front and Ahrar Al Sham, fought soldiers around the Taftanaz airbase in the northwest province of Idlib, the British-based Observatory said.
The rebels had broken into the airport the day before after launching a car bomb at the main gate but were pushed back by the army.
The Aleppo facility is an important strategic prize in Syria’s north, which is largely under rebel countrol.
The critical civilian transportation hub has been closed since Tuesday after repeated attacks by rebels, according to an airport official, who said it would reopen as soon as the army regained control of the surrounding areas.
Fighting in Aleppo city has been at a stalemate for months since opposition fighters launched a massive assault in mid-July.
Troops retaliated against rebel gains in the Aleppo area overnight, shelling insurgent strongholds in Sakhur district in the east of the city and the towns of Marea and Aazaz further north near the Turkish border.
Three rebels were meanwhile killed in combat with troops around the Deir Ezzor military airport, as fighting also broke out in the nearby provincial capital in the east of the country.
The armed opposition controls large swathes of land in the area stretching from Deir Ezzor city to Iraq in the east, including the Hamdan airport in the border town of Albu Kamal.
Near Damascus, deadly clashes broke out northeast of the capital while troops bombed Daraya to southwest, the scene of the worst massacre in the 21-month conflict, and brought in fresh reinforcements in an effort to regain control.
In the southeast, the army also bombed Beit Saham near the Damascus airport road and the town of Maliha, where dozens were killed or wounded in an air raid on a petrol station the day before according to the watchdog.
The United Nations on Wednesday said 60,000 people have been killed in the 21 months since Syria’s rebellion started from a revolt in March 2011.
The figure, described as “truly shocking” by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, was nearly a third higher than the toll previously given by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.