Rebels cap­ture part of army base

EU de­nounces civil war as op­po­si­tion gains mo­men­tum against regime.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Bassem mroue AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS Ter­ror­ist group on u.s. list MANU BRABO /

Rebels cap­tured part of a sprawl­ing Syr­ian army base out­side the em­bat­tled north­ern city of Aleppo, tight­en­ing the op­po­si­tion’s grip on ar­eas close to the Turk­ish bor­der, ac­tivists said Mon­day.

The gains by rebel forces came as the Euro­pean Union de­nounced the Syr­ian con­flict, which ac­tivists say has killed more than 40,000 peo­ple.

“The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in Syria is a stain on the world’s con­science and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has a mo­ral duty to ad­dress it,” Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jose Manuel Bar­roso said in Oslo as the EU re­ceived the No­bel Peace Prize.

The rebels also killed 13 sol­diers in an am­bush near a strate­gic north­ern town along a road link­ing Aleppo, the na­tion’s largest city and busi­ness hub, with Da­m­as­cus, and cap­tured 20 sol­diers and po­lice­men at a ma­jor post on the high­way link­ing the cen­tral town of Salamiyeh with the north­ern city of Raqqa, ac­tivists said.

Once on the de­fen­sive, Syria’s rebels have gained mo­men­tum in re­cent weeks with a num­ber of tac­ti­cal ad­vances, seiz­ing air­bases near Da­m­as­cus and Aleppo and putting Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s forces on their heels.

In an in­ter­view with Dubai TV, Syria’s top mil­i­tary de­fec­tor said As­sad’s regime is “over” and ad­vised the pres­i­dent to leave of­fice and let the coun­try’s peo­ple de­cide their own fate.

Manaf Tlass, a Syr­ian gen­eral who was the first mem­ber of As­sad’s in­ner cir­cle to break ranks and join the op­po­si­tion, said “we are at a turn­ing point and the train of the rev­o­lu­tion will be victorious.” Tlass, who de­fected in July, said he urged As­sad to lis­ten to the peo­ple’s The State De­part­ment said Mon­day that a mil­i­tant group at the fore­front of the Syr­ian rebel move­ment is just an­other name for al-Qaida in Iraq, an ac­knowl­edg­ment that the upris­ing to top­ple Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad is led in part by for­eign Is­lamist ex­trem­ists who fought U.S. troops for years in the bloody Iraq War. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is ex­pected to make a for­mal an­nounce­ment to­day, on the eve of an in­ter­na­tional Friends of Syria sum­mit in Morocco. de­mands and im­ple­ment se­ri­ous re­forms.

“I used to talk to the pres­i­dent four times a day and I used to see him ev­ery other day. I tried to con­vince him to re­act with the rebels. He al­ways avoided an­swer­ing and used to say they are armed gangs,” Tlass said from Paris, where he has been spend­ing much of his time.

“I told him tens of times, and some­times in a loud voice that ‘you should be with your peo­ple’ and he did not an­swer,” Tlass said. “It’s over. ... I ad­vise him to leave.”

A fighter with the Free Syr­ian Army pre­pares to ad­vance on a mil­i­tary base near Azaz, Syria, on Mon­day.

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