CAIRO — Syrian rebel fighters have blown up a government military base in northern Idlib province by tunneling under the besieged outpost and setting off explosives. Rebels recently used a similar method to destroy a checkpoint near the same base and a government army barracks in a hotel in Syria's largest city of Aleppo.
An enormous explosion Thursday destroyed part of the government-controlled Wadi al-Deif military base near the rebel-held town of Ma'arat al-Na'aman in Idlib province. It was the fourth such explosion to hit a government position via rebel-built tunnels in recent weeks.
Al-Arabiya TV reported that the 850-meter tunnel beneath the Wadi al-Deif base took rebel fighters seven months to dig. Opposition activists claim that dozens of government soldiers were killed and wounded in the blast, but it was impossible to confirm the figures.
Rebel forces destroyed an historic hotel in a government controlled district of Aleppo last week by setting off an explosion in a tunnel beneath that structure. Dozens of casualties were reported in the blast, after much of the building housing government forces collapsed.
In other violence Thursday, at least 29 people were killed when a car bomb went off near the border with Turkey. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the explosion occurred at a garage near the Bab al-Salameh border crossing in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo.
Amateur video showed residents of the rebel-held town of Sarmada pulling bodies from under rubble, after a government helicopter bombed buildings in a residential district. Blankets covered what appeared to be bodies piled onto a flatbed truck.
Opposition sources claimed the government attack on Sarmada was in retaliation for the blast at the Wadi al-Deif base. Government warplanes also bombed the rebel-held town of Latamna near Syria's fourth largest city of Hama.
Another amateur video showed a billowing, black mushroom cloud rising over a government-held building in Daraa province, near the Jordanian border, after a powerful blast destroyed the structure. It was not clear if rebel forces blew up the building.
PM visits Homs
Children danced to music in Syria's third largest city of Homs, as Prime Minister Wa'el al-Halqy visited the recently recaptured city center. State TV showed the prime minister and government officials inspecting a badly-damaged mosque and vowing to rebuild it.
The prime minister sounded upbeat and insisted that the government intended to be magnanimous in victory:
He says that national reconciliation is starting to take place, thanks to the victory of Syria's armed forces and with the participation of all the main forces in society. He insists that the reconciliation will spread to other parts of Syria in a spirit of generosity.
Fighting continued in many other parts of the country, with Arab TV channels reporting that the al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group captured the road between Deir-ez-Zor in the east and Raqqa to the north of the country. Heavy fighting was also reported in suburbs of Damascus both north and south of the capital