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Syria rebels overrun key army base in Daraa province

Rebels siezed control of a base that lies near a major highway running from Damascus to Syria's southern border with Jordan
Syrian rebels battle government forces in Daraa province (AFP)

An alliance of Syrian rebel forces seized a key army base in the south of the country on Tuesday in a new setback for the government's embattled troops.

The Southern Front alliance took full control of the 52nd Brigade base in Daraa province after 24 hours of fierce clashes, a spokesman for the group told AFP.

"The 52nd Brigade base was fully liberated from the regime army," Major Essam al-Rayes said, adding that at least 2,000 rebel fighters had taken part in the "short and quick" assault.

The base lies near a major highway running from Damascus to Syria's southern border with Jordan and is also near the frontier with neighbouring Sweida province, which is largely goverment-controlled.

"This base was one of the main lines of defence for the regime forces. It was a nightmare, because they used it to shell all the areas to the east of the province," Rayes said.

The Southern Front was combing through the site for material left by government troops, he said, adding the alliance would likely launch additional attacks from there in the near future. 

Diaa al-Hariri, spokesman for Faylaq al-Awwal, one of the groups in the alliance, said the base was being used as a launching pad for the army's infantry. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed opposition groups had taken the base after clashes and intense shelling that left 15 rebel fighters and 20 government forces dead.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said rebel forces also seized two villages, including the Christian town of al-Rakham, as government troops withdrew to the nearby village of al-Dara.

Rebels control a majority of Daraa province and its capital, Abdel Rahman said.

Meanwhile, at least 20 people were killed and around 40 were injured in regime barrel bomb attacks on Aleppo in northern Syria, Civil Defense officials said.

The death toll included a number of women and children.

Baibars Mashal, a Civil Defense official in Aleppo, told Anadolu Agency that regime helicopters targeted four neighborhoods in the city using eight barrel bombs.

Barrel bombs are improvised explosives typically consisting of a barrel filled with high explosives, shrapnel, oil or chemicals, which is then dropped from an aircraft.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict between the government and opposition forces began, according to the UN.