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Syrian Rebels Take Air Base, Dam In Northern Syria

After weeks of relatively little movement in the Syrian war, rebel forces have claimed two significant advances in northern Syria in the past two days.

They said they seized the military's Jarrah air base on Tuesday in the northern province of Aleppo after days of clashes with government troops.

And a day earlier, the rebels asserted that they had control of Syria's largest hydroelectric dam, the Tabqa dam, in neighboring Raqqah province.

Activists have uploaded videos from the Jarrah air base, showing captured warplanes and munitions.

In this YouTube video, one rebel fighter boasts as he comes upon a storeroom: "The airports are in our hands, military sectors are in our hands, and the [bombs] that you were shelling us with are in our hands."

Christopher Harmer, the senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, looked at the video and says the storage room is filled with "fuel tanks that are attached to planes to give them more fuel storage for longer flights."

He says they can be used to create the so-called barrel bombs that the Syrian government has used against rebel forces. However, he added, "it would make more sense to use a cheap oil drum than these expensive aircraft parts."

Abu Abdallah Minbig, a rebel commander at the Jarrah airport, told Reuters that "the airport was being used to bomb northern and eastern rural Aleppo. By capturing it, we have cut the regime's supply line from Aleppo to the east."

Rebel forces are stuck in a stalemate with government troops in Aleppo itself, with each side controlling about half the city. Activists say rebels are focusing their attacks on airports, military bases and highways in Aleppo province in hopes of cutting the government's ability to launch air attacks and resupply troops.

In a major strategic victory last month, rebel forces captured Taftanaz, the largest helicopter airbase in northern Syria. The Syrian government remains in control of the Aleppo International Airport as well as two smaller air bases in the region.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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