The rebels decided to attack Saturday afternoon when they felt the soldiers inside were weak and the rebels had enough ammunition to finish the battle, Qadi said. The battle was over by nightfall on Sunday. Seven rebel fighters were killed in the battle, said al-Faj of the rebels’ Joint Command. Other rebel leaders gave similar numbers.
It remains unclear how many soldiers remained in the base when the rebels launched their attack and what happened to them.
Al-Faj said all soldiers inside were either killed or captured. He said he didn’t know how many were killed, but that the rebels had taken about 50 prisoners, all of whom would be tried in a rebel court. Aside from the 20 prisoners seen at the rebel’s Bab al-Hawa base, the AP was unable to see any other captured soldiers.
The Syrian government does not respond to requests for comment on military affairs and said nothing about the base’s capture. It says the rebels are terrorists backed by foreign powers that seek to destroy the country.
Disorganization has plagued the Syrian opposition since the start of the anti-Assad uprising in March 2011, with exile groups pleading for international help even when they have no control over those fighting inside of Syria.
A newly formed Syrian opposition coalition received a boost Tuesday, when Britain officially recognized it as the sole representative of the Syrian people.
The National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was formed in the Gulf nation of Qatar on Oct. 11 under pressure from the United States for a stronger, more united opposition body to serve as a counterweight to more extremist forces.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday the body’s members gave assurances to be a ‘‘moderate political force committed to democracy’’ and that the West must ‘‘support them and deny space to extremist groups.’’
The United States and the European Union have both spoken well of the body but stopped short of offering it full recognition.
Key to the body’s success will be its ability to build ties with the disparate rebel groups fighting inside Syria. Many rebel leaders say they don’t recognize the new body, and a group of extremist Islamist factions on Monday rejected it, announcing that they had formed an ‘‘Islamic state’’ in Aleppo.
Anti-regime activists say nearly 40,000 people have been killed since Syria’s crisis started 20 months ago.
Associated Press write Elizabeth Kennedy contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.