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Al-Jarra AFB in Syria Captured By Rebel Forces
It seems Assad's hold onto Syria, or more appropriately, Damascus (with his 4th Division), is loosening in another setback. Earlier, the Tabqa Dam, east of Aleppo, fell to the Islamist spearhead battalion called al-Nusra. This was a major blow as it controls water down the Euphrates and into Aleppo. Now, al-Nusra has captured a strategic Syrian airforce base, al-Jarra with many SU-22 and MIG-23 aircraft in their bombproof bunkers. The defending Syrian army forces battled until they fled. The airforce base is near Aleppo, a city ravaged by Syrian bombing and one used recently by Assad to bomb rebel forces. They have now taken control of four major military installations in Syria since October 2012.
Assad has now focused some of his remaining aircraft to bomb the airbase in an attempt to destroy the intact bombers and jet fighters. However, since many are in bombproof bunkers, the rebels have put out the word in search for trained pilots who can fly them for high amounts of money. Since al-Nusra is linked to al-Qaeda, the funding is there. If the rebels can hire mercenaries who can fly the aircraft, it could be a game changer for the rebels will be able to bomb Assad in Damascus. None of the al-Nusra can fly jet aircraft. Their headhunters are scouring the former Soviet republics and East Europe with large Muslim communities for Muslim pilots who served in the air forces of their own countries.
This brings into the issue of Assad's chemical weapons already loaded on missiles or in artillery shells. The end is drawing near and even Assad must feel it. He has said he will go down in flames and will use his chemical weapons when it is near. It is getting more likely he will use them unless he changes his mind and flees, which is highly doubtful. Israel has its drones hovering 24\7 over the border areas and probably into Syria. They have already flown into Syria and destroyed suspected attempts to move Iranian SA-17 missiles into Lebanon for Hezbollah.
The whole area is on thin ice. Who will do what first? There is a point in time Assad must decide as Damascus is taken by the rebels one section at a time. Would Israel actually bomb areas in Damascus to take out the chemical weapons? If they did, what reaction will there be from Iran, Hezbollah or the al-Qaeda linked, al-Nusra?