Syria regime capture key Idlib airbase

Syria regime capture key Idlib airbase
Syria's regime has said troops and militia fighters have won back Abu Duhur airbase in Idlib, which sees Damascus in control of a key military installation in the rebel-held province.
2 min read
21 January, 2018
Abu Durur was captured by Syrian rebels in 2015 [AFP]

The Syrian regime announced Sunday it had captured the vital Abu Duhur military airport in Idlib province, more than two years after losing it to rebels.

Pro-regime sources had claimed the Abu Duhur airport was captured Saturday, but this was denied by rebel groups including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) defenders.

On Sunday, the Syrian army said they had won back the airbase. 

"After a string of special operations, units from our armed forces in coordination with allied fighters succeeded in their military operation and took control of the Abu Duhur military airport in Idlib province," the army said in a statement. 

"Engineering units are now dismantling and clearing mines, explosives, and bombs planted by terrorists in the area," he said.

Hizballah television were one of the first media outlets to report the seizure of the airport with selfies shared by regime fighters around aircraft parked in the base.

Reports suggest HTS fighters withdrew from the airbase allowing regime troops to take full control of the airport.

A rebel alliance known at Jaish al-Fatah captured Idlib province - including Abu Dahur - during a swift offensive that overwhelmed regime forces in 2015.

In the past weeks Syrian regime troops and militia fighters have been advancing on the north-west province of Idlib, and towards Abu Duhur.

It is part of a fierce regime offensive launched in late December with Russian backing to capture central and northern Syrian territories.

Damascus has won land in Hama and moved into Idlib, the only province fully controlled by the rebels.

Dozens of towns and villages as part of the assault, but the air base's capture marks the first military installation Syrian troops have managed to retake in Idlib.

Moscow on Sunday confirmed that its Syrian allies were now in control of Abu Duhur. 

Syria now can secure a key route leading between the two main cities, Aleppo and the capital Damascus. 

Syria's war began when the regime suppressed peaceful protests leading to an armed uprising against Bashar al-Assad.

After rebels won Idlib province in 2015, Russia entered the war, aiding the regime from the air.

Huge air assaults have helped Assad win back territory and put the rebels on the backfoot, but the cost has been devastating for Syrian civilians.

Agencies contributed to this story.