Syrian troops have recaptured parts of a military base seized by rebels early this year in fierce fighting near the international airport of second city Aleppo, a monitoring group said Friday.
Heavy fighting erupted at 4:00 am (0200 GMT) around Base 80 outside the northern city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The troops were backed by pro-regime militia and fighters from Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah in their assault on rebel groups, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“Regime troops have advanced inside the base and now control large parts of it, and rebel groups and the Islamic State are bringing in reinforcements,” said the Observatory.
At least 15 rebels were killed in the fighting and towns near the base had come under heavy bombardment, along with neighbourhoods of Aleppo city, the London-based Observatory added.
A senior regime security official confirmed the government was making advances in the area.
“Military operations in the area are progressing with success. Work is underway in the area on the outskirts of Sfeira and the areas under the country of the army are being expanded,” he told AFP.
“Base 80 is near Sfeira and the army has had successes in the whole area around it,” he said, without giving details on progress inside the base.
Rebel forces seized control of Base 80 in February.
The base’s garrison was responsible for securing the airport and the adjacent Nayrab military airfield, which both remain under regime control.
Elsewhere, the Observatory reported ongoing fighting around a key weapons depot near the town of Mahin in central Homs province.
Rebel groups, including Al-Qaeda-affiliated battalions, seized part of the depot earlier this week, and the Observatory said both sides were bringing in reinforcements.
More than 120,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria since March 2011, according to the Observatory. Millions more have been internally displaced or fled abroad.