BEIRUT — Syrian rebels and Islamic militants seeking to topple President Bashar Assad took full control of a strategic northwestern air base today in a significant blow to government forces, seizing helicopters, tanks and multiple rocket launchers, activists said.
The Taftanaz air base in Idlib province is the largest air base yet to be captured by the rebels — and it is the biggest field in the north of the country for the helicopters that the regime has used to bomb rebel-held areas and deliver supplies to government troops.
The capture further chips away at the regime’s airpower in the north, which the regime has relied upon increasingly over the past year as it lost control of large swaths of territory. But it doesn’t eliminate the threat to rebels from the air. There remain several other, smaller helicopter bases, and regime warplanes that also strike the area operate from bases further south. The capture wouldn’t affect the military’s airpower against rebels in other parts of the country.