President Assad’s forces suffered notable setbacks on two fronts on Thursday. Islamic State jihadists completed the capture of the Regime 93 base near Raqqa in northern Syria, and insurgents launched an offensive to surround Damascus International Airport.
The Islamic State claimed that it had killed 300 Syrian troops and captured more than 100, posting gruesome picture of the beheading of dead soldiers. While the jihadists had been near the base for some time, its fall was sudden, with a suicide vehicle bomb on Wednesday opening the way to overrun the complex.
The regime’s last remaining military position in Raqqa Province is the Taqba airbase.
The victory is the latest in a series for the Islamic State since it ended a non-aggression arrangement with the Assad regime in June. The jihadists have overrun a key gasfield in central Syria and captured the Regiment 93 base, also near Raqqa.
In the south, insurgents made their own quick advance, seizing territory west of the Damascus airport. The Islamic Front, including the leading faction Jaish al-Islam, said it had taken positions near mills close to Ghazlania, looking to capture that town and nearby Hatitat Alturkman.
Insurgents said they want to encircle the airport to threaten its operations, including the movement of foreign fighters and Iranian weapons and supplies. They may also be seeking to cut off key highways, limiting regime operations between the West Ghouta and East Ghouta areas.
Video of insurgent operations with an armored vehicle:
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Free Syrian Army Continues Attacks on Hama Military Airport
The Free Syrian Army says it continued attacks on Hama Military Airport on Thursday, using heavy artillery on troops in the airport and the 4th Division to the west of the city. It claims successful strikes and casualties in both locations.
The insurgents also say there were “fierce clashes” at checkpoints near Mohardeh, killing and capturing Syrian troops and destroying and seizing tanks and anti-tank rockets.
Opposition fighters moved within a few kilometers of the airport, one of the key bases for the regime, last week. The airport is vital in the transport of troops throughout Syria and in the production of barrel bombs, one of the Syrian military’s main weapons against insurgent-held areas.
Photographs: Islamic State Executes 20 Men in Deir Ez Zor Province
Supporters of the Islamic State have posted photographs of the jihadists executing men — by gunfire and by throat-cutting — in Deir Ez Zor Province in eastern Syria.
The opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights said 20 men were killed after they were arrested at a checkpoint outside the village of Ash-S’ytat. Most of the executed were working in the oilfield.
Warning — these are two of the least graphic images: