US-backed forces in Syria retake Tabqa airport from Daesh

Syrian Democratic Forces recapture the airport in an offensive that started in November. Civilians flee Tabqa as well as the rebel-held district of Homs.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters east of Raqqa city, Syria, March 26, 2017.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a US-led international coalition, said it had seized Tabqa military airport in northern Syria held by Daesh, close to the country's largest dam. The Euphrates Dam is not damaged or malfunctioning and engineers fully inspected its operations, a Syrian rebel spokeswoman said on Monday, after Daesh said it was at risk of collapse.

Daesh had captured Tabqa airport from regime forces in 2014 after a lengthy siege. Hundreds of regime soldiers were captured and executed.

Retaking Tabqa is a major blow to Daesh because it lies near the city of Raqqa, the militant group's de-facto capital. The alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters launched its offensive for Raqqa city in November, seizing around two-thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Civilians fleeing

Hundreds of families were fleeing the city of Tabqa to the relative safety of outlying areas as US-led coalition air strikes intensified in the past few days, according to former residents in touch with relatives there.

SOHR, which monitors the war in Syria, said a week-long campaign of US-led strikes on Tabqa and the western countryside of Raqqa province had killed at least 90 civilians. A quarter of the casualties were children. Dozens of people were injured.

In the rebel-held Homs, hundreds of opposition fighters and their families are leaving the city's Al Waer district. Under a Russia-backed deal, the regime allows weekly evacuations under the supervision of Russian troops.

TRT World's Donald Cameron reports.

Chlorine gas attack?

Syrian activists say chlorine gas has been used in an attack on a field hospital in a rebel-held town just outside the city of Hama, north of Homs.

The Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, said patients and medical staff started choking and had to be evacuated from the area.

This is not the first time a suspected chemical agent has been used in the fighting. There were several reports suggesting similar incidents took place across Syria in the past six months.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies