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Syria Live Coverage: The Insurgents Capture a Major Airbase

An insurgent-controlled tank forces its way into the Taftanaz airbase

See also Syria Audio Analysis: Swapping 2130 Civilian Prisoners for 48 Iranian "Pilgrims" --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
Turkey (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Three Kurdish Officials Killed in Paris Attack
Wednesday's Syria Live Coverage: A Mass Killing in Idlib Province?

1930 GMT: Taftanaz. Claimed footage of the insurgent attack on the last building held by regime forces on the Taftanaz airbase:

1910 GMT: Taftanaz. State news agency SANA dismisses reports of the insurgent takeover of Taftanaz airbase in a two-sentence report:

The guards of Taftanaz airport in Idleb countryside repelled a terrorist group that tried to storm into the airport on Thursday. The guards inflicted heavy losses upon the terrorists, killing and injuring a number of them, while the rest fled.

1740 GMT: Taftanaz. Claimed footage of destruction in the town of Taftanaz from regime shelling, following the insurgents' takeover of the nearby airbase:

1540 GMT: The Insurgency. Insurgents have said they have formed an intelligence service to "protect the revolution", monitor sensitive military sites. and gather military information to help plan attacks against regime forces.

"We formally formed the unit in November. It provides all kind of information to (opposition) politicians and fighters. We are independent and just serve the revolution," said an insurgent intelligence officer named Haji.

He said most of the new service's members are army defectors and former intelligence officers, and that the information they gathered was distributed to all anti-Assad factions and rebel brigades without discrimination.

Haji was careful to distinguish between its methods and those of the secret police under Assad, saying he was aware of the feared reputation of the government's internal spy services: "Our work is organized, we have an internal law and we are committed to international laws and human rights."

1500 GMT: Taftanaz. Claimed video of regime aerial attacks on the town Taftanaz after the nearby airbase was taken by insurgents:

1247 GMT: Brahimi Ditches Assad? Back from an academic break to find the Syrian Foreign Minister lambasting United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi after he indicated that President Assad would not be part of a transitional government, accusing him of "blatant bias" and advising him to read its proposal for a "Syria-led" solution.

Pro-regime media have also hit back at Brahimi.

Al-Watan said Brahimi was a "pawn" of the West: "He revealed his true face, which sees the Syrian crisis in a one-sided manner, to suit his masters."

Meanwhile, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland back Brahimi: "We saw him reflecting the views of the vast majority of Syrians that we talk to, that 40 years is more than enough for the Assad family. So we obviously weren’t surprised, based on what we’ve been hearing from him, that he was willing to say that in public."

0819 GMT: United Nations Envoy Ditches Assad? Reuters takes that line in the summary of its interview with Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday:

"Surely he would not be a member of that government," Brahimi told Reuters.

He reiterated his view that the peace plan agreed in Geneva last year remained "the base for a solution in Syria".

"There is no military solution," he said. "The solution shouldn't wait until 2014. It should be in 2013," he said.

He described a speech delivered by Assad this week as "narrow" and "uncompromising", adding that Assad had "narrowed his initiative by excluding some parties" from his own proposed talks to end the Syrian conflict.

"This wouldn't be a national dialogue," Brahimi said.

0657 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees reported a relatively low death toll for Wednesday, with 92 people slain. Twenty-nine were killed in Damascus and its suburbs, and 27 in Aleppo Province.

Meanwhile, there was a late-night reminder of a mass killing earlier in the week: videos and photographs emerged which claimed to be to the murdered in Mastoomeh, near Idlib City. Mystery still surrounds the events, which appear to have followed the regime's defeat of a small opposition force in the village --- activists claim between 30 and 70 people were executed as the Assad military took control.

0630 GMT: Taftanaz Airbase Captured. Wednesday opened with the surprising news that the Assad regime had released 2130 civilian detainees in return for the freeing of 48 Iranian men by insurgents. Yet as we were working through the political implications of the deal --- see separate Audio Analysis --- another, perhaps bigger, story emerged.

After weeks of siege, opposition fighters finally claimed Taftanaz airbase in Idlib Province. The base was one of the staging posts for regime operations and movements of troops and resources, but the military significance of Wednesday's events goes beyond that. EA's James Miller explains:


These are essentially the last positions held by the Assad regime west of Aleppo. With Taftanaz in the bag Idlib City is closer to being besieged from all angles. All the forces that have been hitting Taftanaz will now focus on Binnish, Idlib, Saraqeb, and other towns.  

The insurgents will now surround Idlib and then try to take it. And if Idlib falls, Hama will face a lot of firepower.


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