Syria rebels seize key military base

AFP-JIJI, AP

Rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad on Saturday seized a key air base in the southern Syrian province of Daraa after two weeks of fierce battles with loyalist troops, a watchdog said.

“Opposition fighters loyal to Jabhat al-Nusra, Martyrs of Yarmouk Brigade and other rebel groups seized air defense Base 38 near the town of Saida, on the road linking Damascus to Amman in the province of Daraa,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In Damascus’ ancient Umayyad mosque, thousands of Assad supporters attended the funeral of proregime Sunni cleric Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti and his grandson, who died in a Thursday suicide bombing that killed some 50 people.

Activists said Saturday that regime forces have routed rebels in fighting on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights over the past week, leaving at least 35 dead. The rebel effort to overrun the Quneitra region along the ceasefire line separating Syria and Israel has heightened worries that Islamic extremists among the forces fighting Assad could take over the front line with Israeli troops and gain a potential staging ground for attacks on the Jewish state.