Syria rebels capture town near oil field, battle for control of Aleppo airport, opposition says

Syrian rebels stand in the rubble of damaged buildings after government airstrikes in the neighborhood of Karam Tarab, near Aleppo International Airport, Feb. 13, 2013. AP/Aleppo Media Center

BEIRUT Syrian activists said Friday that rebels had captured a town and a nearby oil field after a three-day battle with regime forces in the energy-rich northeast.

The director of the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said the rebels captured the town of Shadadah in the Hasaka province on Thursday.

The fighters also took control of most of a nearby oil field, although there was still sporadic gunfire in the area, Abdul-Rahman said.

Reuters quoted the Observatory as saying militants from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front played a pivotal role in the victory to capture Shadadah, and that 100 Syrian soldiers had been killed in the battle, along with about 30 of the militants.

Opposition activists also said rebels were battling President Bashar Assad's forces for control of the main airport in the northern city of Aleppo.

Rahman said regime warplanes were pounding rebel positions Thursday near Aleppo's international airport, trying to counter recent rebel advances in the area.

Opposition fighters have been attacking the airfield for weeks, and took over most of the "Brigade 80" military base protecting it on Wednesday.

Abdul-Rahman said fierce clashes Thursday were taking place around the airport, which remains in regime hands. He said there were also reports of heavy fighting at another nearby military air base called Nairab.

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