Luke Harding reports: Speaking to the Guardian, the commander in charge of the Aleppo battle confirmed that his troops had seized a key checkpoint north-west of the city early today. Col Abdel Naser said Free Syrian Army fighters had overwhelmed the Hryatan army base, 5km from the city and next to the Andadan checkpoint, at around 5am this morning.
“It was a successful operation. We took eight tanks and 10 armoured vehicles, as well as mortars and lots of weapons. We also took prisoners. One of our fighters was killed,” he said. He added: “Two tanks and one armoured vehicle managed to escape.”
Col Naser said the Syrian army had responded to the defeat with “light shelling”, on the town of Hryatan and neighbouring Anadan, the FSA’s previous forward position. “We expect more shelling tonight,” he said.
The capture of the Anadan checkpoint is a major boost for the rebels, who now control a strategic land corridor in northern Syria from Turkey all the way to Aleppo’s outskirts. Another FSA officer said theroute would be useful for resupplying FSA fighters inside the city – and as a haven for refugees seeking to flee. Tens of thousands have already left for safer areas.
It also bolsters opposition claims that the rebels are now encircling regime forces rather than the other way round. The regime still has 100 tanks and 400 armoured vehicles inside Aleppo. But Col Naser suggested government forces were now defending their positions in the centre of the city.