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Syria rebels seize military base in oil-rich east, activists say

November 22, 2012|By Emily Alpert

Rebel fighters overtook a military base in eastern Syria, seizing control of an artillery battalion in the latest in a string of recent victories in the region, opposition activists said Thursday. Videos spread online show fighters celebrating as smoke rises from an imposing building in the distance.

The reported takeover cements the rebels’ hold on a stretch of the country bordering Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group based in Britain. It called the nearby town of Mayadin “the last regime stronghold” in Dair Alzour province.

The Dair Alzour region is also rich in oil, making control a potential financial windfall for the rebels. Opposition forces have captured at least two of the three major oilfields, McClatchy reported Wednesday.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency had no immediate reports of a takeover in Dair Alzour on its English website. It reported armed forces inflicted heavy losses on “terrorists” in the same region Thursday.

Fighting and bombardment continued to rage elsewhere in the country as well, including Aleppo and Homs, according to both state media and opposition activists.

One attack destroyed the building next to an Aleppo field hospital and badly damaged the hospital itself, activists reported, killing at least 15 people and crippling the medical facility. A nurse at the Dar Shifa hospital told the Agence France-Presse that a doctor and a nurse were operating on a patient at the time of the strike.

"When the bomb came, it killed all of them," he told the news agency.

The United Nations news service reports more than 20,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the ongoing conflict between the government and opposition forces seeking to oust President Bashar Assad. Opposition groups say the number now exceeds 40,000. The continuing crisis has left an estimated 2.5 million people in need of aid, according to the U.N.

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