Syria rebels take airbase ahead of 'major battle'

Syrian rebels captured a military airbase in the north on Friday and geared up for a major battle against loyalists as the opposition said it refuses to accept President Bashar al-Assad in talks on the 23-month conflict.

The rebels, from the Islamist Al-Nusra Front and the Muhajireen battalion, overran the base in Sfeira, east of Aleppo international airport, and captured a large stockpile of ammunition, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog also reported intermittent clashes around the Aleppo airport itself as well as around Nayrab airbase and another military complex, as the two sides squared up for a major fight.

"The army shelled the area around Aleppo international airport and Nayrab air base on Friday morning, while rebels used home-made rockets to shell Nayrab," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

"The army is preparing a large-scale operation to take back control of Base 80," he added, referring to a military complex tasked with the security of both Nayrab and Aleppo airports.

Rebels seized the base on Wednesday after a battle that left at least 150 dead from both sides, among them senior army officers, according to the Observatory.

Regime tanks, meanwhile, shelled the town of Khan Sheikhun in the province of Idlib, killing at least 11 civilians, the Observatory said, adding that at least 107 people were killed in violence nationwide on Friday.

In Damascus, the army shelled the eastern district of Jobar where rebels have set up enclaves, the Britain-based group said.

It also said more than 100 civilians have been abducted in Idlib province in separate incidents, expressing alarm at what it called "sectarian kidnappings."

As they have done every Friday, Syrians protested across the country after weekly prayers to denounce what they called the "inaction" of the international community over the Syria crisis.

"In spite of you, O Bashar, we have our freedom!" chanted protesters in Sukkari, a rebel-held district of Aleppo.

State television broadcast footage of what it said was a pro-regime demonstration in Aleppo, and said residents had called for "armed men to leave their city."

On the political front, the opposition National Coalition said it refuses to accept Assad in any talks, as part of an eight-point "framework" it has drawn up for solutions to the conflict.

The Coalition issued the framework after a meeting in Cairo to discuss a proposal by its chief, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, for peace talks with regime representatives, a move that ruffled feathers in the umbrella opposition group.

"Bashar Assad and security leadership who are responsible for the current destruction of the country are outside the political process and must be held accountable for their crimes," it said in a statement issued in English.

Meanwhile, Syria has written to the United Nations blasting Turkey's "destructive" role in the conflict, state media reported.

"Turkey supports and publicly justifies terrorist, destructive acts" against Syria, the foreign ministry wrote in letters addressed to both the UN Security Council and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"Turkey has turned its territory into camps used to house, train, finance and infiltrate armed terrorist groups, chief among them the Al-Qaeda network and the Al-Nusra Front."

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva said the plight of civilians in Syria has reached catastrophic levels.

"After two years with no end to the military conflict, the situation of the civilian population has reached nothing short of catastrophic" proportions, ICRC Director of Operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl told reporters.

"There is no respite."

The ICRC has been aiding some 1.5 million Syrians, via the Syrian Arab Crescent, in a conflict that the UN says has left some 70,000 people dead.

The United Nations has also said the number of Syrians who have fled the country could hit 1.1 million by June.

Customs officers in Finland, meanwhile, said they had seized spare parts for tanks in a container en route from Russia to Syria on board a Finnish ship docked at Helsinki's Vuosaari port in January.

The European Union has banned all sales, delivery, transfers and exports of weapons to Syria.

  • Treasure trove of British newsreels reveals Top Gear's ancestors 12 hours ago
    Treasure trove of British newsreels reveals Top Gear's ancestors

    Long after television grew to dominate American and British homes, newsreel producer British Pathé kept at it, documenting the news of the day until finally ceasing production of new short films in 1970 after 60 years of effort. Last week, all of British Pathé's 85,000 films were put online — including dozens of fascinating, rare and often weird car films that resemble nothing so much as a jet-age Top Gear.

  • Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete 13 hours ago
    Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete

    During this vile, never-ending winter, motorists had three options to keep their cars clean: Shell out on regular car washes; slave away in the cold, wind and snow washing it yourself, or screw it and just drive a dirty car. I, like many, chose the last option. But if only I'd been able to test Nissan's self-cleaning car, all my troubles would have washed away.

  • Popular hot yoga myths debunked 20 hours ago
    Popular hot yoga myths debunked

    What’s the hottest new workout taking the world by storm? That would be hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga. Conducted in a heated room with sweltering temperatures of about 40°C (or approximately 104° Fahrenheit) and 40 per cent humidity, … Continue reading →

  • Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern
    Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern

    A new picture of Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who is now 90 years old, has drawn concern from people on Singapore's internet space.

  • Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls
    Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls

    After being photographed at work in Jurong pooling used oil near coffee shops, 50-year-old Valerie Sim has been struggling to keep her family afloat. Web portals STOMP and The Real Singapore published pictures of her in February, triggering a witch hunt for others like her and comments from readers like “Who knows if they’ll use it as cooking oil?” Some readers also said they filed police reports against her and other people they believed were doing the same thing she was.

  • I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.
    I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.

    I have committed a taboo – I have tendered my resignation without securing the next job. The reactions to the announcement were varied but they all pretty much hint at a deep sense of disapproval. “Why did you do that?” It was as if I had renounced my faith. “What are you going to do from now on?” Almost as though a misfortune had incapacitated me. “What does your family have to say about it?” As if I had offered to cook for the next family dinner. I was, and still am, certain of my reasons and motivations for the resignation. However the response I received got me thinking about why people are so concerned about the gaps in their careers. The developed world evolved from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy to the service age, then to the knowledge economy in the late 1990s and 2000s marked by breakthroughs in technological innovations and competition for innovation with new products and processes that develop from the research community. According to The Work Foundation, the knowledge economy is driven by the demand for higher value added goods and services created by more sophisticated, more discerning, and better educated consumers and ... The post I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind. appeared first on Vulcan Post.