Syrian rebels push to grab territory outside Aleppo

July 31, 2012

From Ivan Watson, CNN

Northern Syria (CNN) — Syrian rebel fighters fought to control a key road to the Turkish border and turned captured tanks against a government air base north of Syria’s largest city on Monday.

The tanks came from the rebel seizure of an army outpost outside Aleppo, the scene of heavy fighting for more than a week. Rebel troops overran the outpost early Monday and were hauling out tank shells and crates of ammunition by afternoon.

The outpost was a restaurant outside the town of Anadan, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Aleppo, that had been commandeered by government troops and surrounded by earthworks. Rebels were putting the captured armor to work Monday by shelling an air base outside Azaz, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) farther north, said Ahmed Afesh, a commander with the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Afesh showed off two Soviet-era T-55 tanks captured by his men Monday, as well as an armored personnel carrier and the smoldering wreckage of another destroyed during the fighting. Rebel fighters and civilians greeted him with handshakes and kisses.

The rebels also have been able to establish growing enclaves in northern Syria and made attempts to seize a number of key border crossings last week. They already control much of the main western highway from Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital and largest city, to the Turkish border. And after the overnight battle outside the town of Anadan, traffic moved freely on a road that had been too dangerous for motorists days before.

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