IS captures Tabqa Airport
The Islamic State (IS) took over the Tabqa military airport Sunday by repeatedly suicide bombing the site and finally gaining entry and capturing it.
Tabqa was the only remaining regime military base in north-central A-Raqqa province.
The Syrian official news agency SANA confirmed the report: “Our forces successfully regrouped after the airport was evacuated.”
The Islamic State began its assault on the regime base in mid-August. IS escalated its efforts last week, attempting to storm the airport following an apparent suicide car bomb attack. They then initiated another attack Thursday morning which was preceded by two more suicide car bombers.
IS mounted a third offensive Saturday morning, then a fourth Saturday night, managing to enter the airport Sunday morning, according to celebratory announcements made by IS-affiliated social media accounts.
After nearly seven days of fighting, nearly 350 IS fighters and 170 Syrian army soldiers had lost their lives.
IS control over Tabqa airport could potentially furnish the group with powerful new equipment. The site was reportedly home to at least two warplane squadrons, six helicopters, a number of 130mm field guns, mortars, four tanks, and large stores of ammunition, Ahmed Abu Bakr, a media activist in A-Raqqa, told Syria Direct last week.
Conflicting information has emerged concerning how much war booty, if any, IS acquired from A-Tabqa airport.
While IS-affiliated Twitter accounts posted photos allegedly showing combatants in possession of regime missiles and a plane, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that “all military instruments and planes” were removed to Deir e-Zor airport and other areas prior to IS’s final assault.
With A-Tabqa airport’s fall, virtually all of A-Raqqa province has come under IS control.
The only exception remains a handful of villages in the northwest of A-Raqqa, adjacent to the Aleppo border, which the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) control.
IS captures Taqba airport in A-Raqqa province. photo courtesy of @Shami_Media.
Foreign Ministers of Arab countries meet to discuss IS
The Foreign Ministers of four Arab countries and the Jordanian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia met in Jeddah Sunday to address the threat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, reported the pro-government Jordanian newspaper al-Rai Monday.
In the meeting the ministers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and UAE agreed to “combat terrorism in Syria and the growth of extremist ideology that threatens the region.”
Meanwhile, pro-regime Syrian newspaper al-Watan questioned the sincerity of Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s efforts to curb the spread of IS in the region.
“Observers seriously doubt Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s fight against terrorism,” al-Watan said, “because the two still support [terrorists] with money and weapons.”
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are known to have funded hardline Islamic militant groups against Assad in Syria and are both strongly pro-opposition.
“The upcoming days will tell if the meeting was held more for words or for action,” the paper noted.
Rebels attempt to break water blockade on Homs town
Free Syrian Army rebels attacked regime checkpoints surrounding FSA-controlled town Taldou in northern Homs province Sunday due to a blockade on the town that has caused severe water shortages, according to local pro-opposition news agency Hulwa News Network.
This is the third day of battles between the regime and opposition fighters in the Hulwa Valley where Taldou is located, pro-opposition activist Firas al-Hulawi told Syria Direct Monday, “especially in the south of the valley where the regime tried to storm the area in order to advance to Taldou.”
“There is a severe water crisis now in the Hulwa Valley,” al-Hulawi said.
“The regime cut off access by putting the barriers around the water facilities and the local dam to pressure the FSA and the civilians.”
Meanwhile, official state news agency SANA reported Syrian army success in the area.
“Units of the army and armed forces have left dozens of terrorists dead and injured in Taldou and other towns in the Halwa Valley.”
Taldou and the Halwa Valley, located 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, are among the last bastions of FSA fighters in the province.
Regime lays deadly ambush for Daraa rebels
Syrian army forces executed a successful ambush in Daraa province, killing “a large number” of FSA fighters of unknown allegiance outside the regime-controlled town of Al-Harra, considered the gateway into Syria’s southeastern Quneitra province, according to official news agency SANA.
The monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the report, noting that 32 rebels were killed, 26 wounded, and an additional 12 unaccounted for.
The regime uses nearby Al-Harra hill to observe movement in the surrounding area, and to launch sniper and artillery attacks on rebel positions. The Al-Harra Local Coordination Committee claimed Monday that regime troops on the hill are currently being equipped with night-vision goggles, heat-sensing surveillance equipment, and highly-accurate Fuzdika artillery pieces.
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