Over 500 Dead as IS Takes Last Syrian Army Base in Raqa

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Jihadists from the Islamic State group have seized Tabqa military airport, the last remaining Syrian army base in northern Raqa province, following a battle that left more than 500 combatants dead, a monitoring group and state media said Sunday.

"170 Syrian soldiers were killed on Sunday in the offensive which led to the IS jihadists seizing Tabqa airport," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mail sent to Agence France-Presse.

It said 346 jihadists had died in the fighting at the airport since last Tuesday.

The Observatory said there were still clashes taking place on the outskirts of the airport, but that it was under control of the militants.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the bodies of "dozens" of Syrian troops killed in the battle for the airport were still inside the facility.

Syrian state television said troops had staged an "evacuation" of the airport after heavy fighting.

"After heavy fighting by the forces defending the Tabqa airport, our forces implemented a regrouping operation after the evacuation of the airport," the broadcaster said in a breaking news alert.

It added that troops were launching "precision strikes" against "terrorist groups" in the area, inflicting heavy losses.

The airport's capture came after IS fighters launched a fourth assault on Tabqa overnight, in a bid to cement their control over Raqa province.

Earlier, Abdul Rahman said the jihadists had begun advancing into the airport, hanging up the head of a decapitated soldier at one of the checkpoints they had seized.

Islamic State fighters have been trying to take Tabqa since early August, but began the airport assault in earnest on Tuesday.

At least 100 Islamic State fighters and 25 regime troops had been killed before the latest clashes.

The airport was the last army stronghold in Raqa, after jihadists captured Brigade 93 and Division 17 in the northern province, killing dozens of soldiers, many of whom were beheaded.

Raqa has become the stronghold of the Islamic State, which controls the provincial capital and has declared an Islamic "caliphate" in territory it holds in Syria and Iraq.

The group initially fought alongside Syrian opposition groups, but its abuses sparked a backlash from rebels who pushed it out of parts of northern Syria.

In recent weeks, though, IS has advanced back into areas it withdrew from, including in northern Aleppo province.

Elsewhere, however, the Observatory said IS fighters were pulling out of parts of central Homs province.

The monitoring group said there was no official reason given for the withdrawal, but that the militants appeared to be moving to areas under tighter IS control, including Deir Ezzor province in the east.

The Observatory said several areas in Homs that had been under IS control were taken over in the wake of the withdrawal by rival jihadist group al-Nusra Front, which is al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate.

Elsewhere, both the Observatory and Syrian state media reported an army ambush on a rebel convoy in the southern province of Daraa.

The Observatory said at least 32 rebels were killed in the attack, with 26 others wounded and 12 missing.

State television said "tens of terrorists" died in the ambush in the west of the province, between the towns of Hara and Zamreen.

Hara is under the control of regime forces, but Zamreen is under rebel control like much of the surrounding area, although there have been recurring clashes there in recent weeks.

Comments 13
Default-user-icon Colonel Sanders (Guest) 24 August 2014, 16:59

syrian army applying the if you run they will come maneuver, learned from the iraqi army and aoun

Missing helicopter 24 August 2014, 17:34

Choosing between IS and the Syrian regimme, I choose the regime.
Choosing between the regime and FSA and choose FSA
Choosing between being Lebanese or Arab, I choose Lebanese (unless and until the Arabs become enlightened enough, Democratic enough, and diverse enough such that the word Arab is not synonymous with Islam)

Missing bigjohn 24 August 2014, 18:20

The FSA never existed! It was a term to describe "some" of the armed Brigades by western supporters in the west. There was not a single brigade called the "FSA". It is like the "Arab spring". That term was NOT created by the revolutionaries who over-through the western supported dictators like Mubarak and the Tunisian dictator.

The "Lebanese (fascist) Nationalists" are more "enlightened, democratic, and diverse" than "Arab Nationalists"? Arab was NEVER synonymous with Islam! If that was the case then Michel Aflaq, Dr George Habash, Fairuz and her Rahbani family, and MANY other Christian intellectuals would not have called themselves Arabs. The KSA and Sunni Islamists are the enemy of Arab Nationalists. Those who say that Arab is synonymous with Islam are the Hariris and Lebanese Fascists.

Thumb beiruti 24 August 2014, 19:13

Fact is that "Arab" is not synonymous with "Islam". In fact, it is the antithesis of "Islam". It is an identity to the Arab ethnicity rather than to the Islamic faith. For Christians, Islamic identity in the region condemns us to perpetual subordination as second class citizens, dhimmi status.
But if the national identity is to " Arab" as an ethnic identity, this is more open and Christian Arabs can have an equal standing. This why the proponents the idealists who developed the concept of the Arab identity are mainly Christians.
Lebanese is a subset of Arab, but to the extent that those who insist on calling themselves "Phoenician" to the denigration of the Arab identity are unwittingly promoting the antithesis of Arabism, which is Islamism. That is, they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Thumb charlesmartel 24 August 2014, 19:53

its pretty simple.... we christians are still waiting for the lebanese muslims to think lebanese first and arabs after... it seems an impossible task so far... from all sides .. we have the saudi first lebanese after .. we have the iran first lebanese after... but what is the common ground? both are muslims...

Missing bigjohn 25 August 2014, 03:59

Very good argument Beiruti.

Missing bigjohn 24 August 2014, 17:56

The west was supporting its Gulf puppet dictators in arming, even encouraging Jihadists to go to Syria and fight the government. Like in Afghanistan, they are now concerned of "unintended consequences".

Missing bigjohn 24 August 2014, 17:58

"then we'll come for you"...Who are "WE"??? I think they are coming for "YOU".

Missing bigjohn 24 August 2014, 18:25

It added that troops were launching "precision strikes" against "terrorist groups" in the area, inflicting heavy losses."....There are some unconfirmed reports that the US is now helping the lousy Syrian regime by giving them satellite information and other "intelligence" to help them find and bomb the "terrorist" hideouts.

Missing bigjohn 24 August 2014, 18:29

Also, you, the lousy Syrian regime, and the west need to understand that even though "half of the scum would be already gone" they will be made up by a larger number of new recruits. Look how large the IS WERE in Iraq and how large they are TODAY in Iraq, Syria, and BEYOND.

Thumb Kalzyturks 24 August 2014, 23:27

HA, using taqqiya have said that we have stopped them from reaching Lebanon.... What a joke.

Thumb whyaskwhy 25 August 2014, 10:28

Its strange how well organized and funded this ISIS organization. I see many new Tundra Trucks and a lot of American hardware too. I guess anything to help Israel survive and at any cost....kinda reminds me of several other American inventions of the past. All serving to keep peace in the south of Lebanon and elsewhere in the region and keeping Isralis out of harms way.

Missing panzergen 25 August 2014, 10:38

My comments have been deleted? Why because truth hurts? Islamic State terrorists are the devil's army. President Bashar Assad protects all minorities and all faith. He has all the rights to protect Syria and it's people from the so called FSA which was supported by the Saudi's and Turkey and to lesser extent the West. The rebels and opposition should just lay down their arms and reconcile with the Syrian government to fight the scourge of the Middle East Daash.