Syrian rebels use captured weapons in airport attack


Syrian rebel fighters stand on top of a government tank captured two days earlier at a checkpoint in the village of Anadan, about five kilometres (3.8 miles) northwest of Aleppo, on August 01, 2012.



Syrian rebels used captured heavy weapons to shell an airport near Aleppo on Thursday, the first known instance of rebels using captured weapons, The New York Times reported.

The rebels used a tank captured from government troops to shell the military air base, the first indication that they have started using weapons they captured in recent weeks from Syrian army forces, according to the Associated Press. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the tank shelled Menagh military airport near Aleppo, used by the regime to launch attacks on rebels.

The United Nations noted that rebels now possess heavy weaponry, including tanks, in the struggle against President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to CNN.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria said government warplanes shelled western and northern parts of the city.

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Activists told CNN that electronic communications, including mobile phones and internet, were cut off on Wednesday night. They fear it may be a precursor to a full-scale attack on Aleppo, the largest city in Syria. "The regime is trying to prevent pictures of his crimes from reaching the media," said Abu Hisham, an activist from Aleppo.

More than 180 people were killed on Wednesday across the country, according to the Observatory, Reuters reported.

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The Times said reports from Turkey also suggested that government troops are trying to cut off supply lines to the rebels.

"Once you start using fixed-wing aircraft and you have a city under full revolt, it’s clear that the Assad regime is not going to stop and is not breaking. We’re entering a new phase of this conflict," Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Times.

"If Aleppo falls, then automatically we are going to establish headquarters at the presidential palace," said Burhan Ghalioun, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, according to the AP. "There will be nothing more that will stand in the way of the Free Syrian Army. Hama, Homs to the outskirts of Damascus have in large part been liberated."