For weeks they have been trying to storm the Aleppo airport, a major prize in the battle for Syria’s commercial capital. The rebels ousted troops from several bases protecting the facility and cut off a major highway the army used to supply its troops inside the airport complex.
Syrian army officials said troops had secured the facility and regained control of several villages along the highway leading to the airport after days of fighting.
An opposition spokesman, Rami Abdul-Rahman, director the Britain-based anti-regime activist group the Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed the army’s victory Saturday, calling it a ‘‘significant achievement.’’
‘‘Securing these villages, assuming the regime can hang on to them, has the potential to turn around the direction of the conflict in Aleppo,’’ Abdul-Rahman said.
In other violence Saturday, clashes broke out in the northeastern Raqqa province, and activists said dozens of people on both sides were reported dead or wounded.
Ahrar al-Sham Movement, a militant Islamic brigade fighting with the rebels, announced in an online video posted Saturday that it was starting a wide scale operation against military and infrastructure targets in the area along with other extremists including Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaida-affiliated group designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group.
Sporadic clashes also continued near Syria’s Rabiya border crossing with Iraq. Syrian fighter jets fired at least two missiles and rebels on the ground fired at the jets, according to a witness on the Iraqi side of the border.
The fighting comes a day after Iraqi officials said a Russian-made rocket fired from Syria slammed into Iraqi territory, intensifying concerns that violence from Syria’s civil war could spill across the border. No one was injured in the strike.
A police officer at the Iraqi Rabiya border crossing said five Syrian soldiers and one officer fled the clashes into Iraqi territory. Three of the soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a hospital in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, he said. A doctor confirmed the figure.
Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information to the media. They didn’t say what happened to the other three who fled.
The chief of Syrian rebel forces, Salim Idris, accused Iraqi soldiers of firing at rebel positions inside Syrian territory and claimed Iraq’s government was backing Assad’s regime.
Iraq’s Defense Ministry denied that Iraqi forces were backing the Syrian army during clashes with rebels. A statement said Iraqi forces are deployed in the border regions only for routine duties and one Iraqi soldier was wounded during the exchange of fire.
Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Barbara Surk in Beirut, Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran and Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.