Syrian rebels declared the Damascus International Airport a “military zone” on Friday as part of their push to seize important symbolic and strategic locations held by President Bashar Assad’s government.
Rebels say the airport is a camp for Syrian government soldiers and is the main transit point for weaponry believed to be supplied by Russia and Iran.
Nabil al-Amir, a rebel spokesman representing the Damascus Military Council said that opposition fighters “waited two weeks for the airport to be emptied of most civilians and airlines” before it was deemed a legitimate target, reports Reuters.
The airport has been operating sporadically in recent days due to fighting in the area, south of Damascus, according to media reports.
The Associated Press, citing an unidentified airport official, reported that fighting had closed the main highway leading to the airport on Friday. But the official said people were reaching the airport on side roads and the facility was functioning as normal.
In another development Friday, Syrian rebels in Istanbul, Turkey, elected a command of 30 members, most of whom have ties to Islamist groups. A delegate told Reuters: “The command has been organized into several fronts. We are now in the process of electing a military leader and a political liaison officer for each region.” American, French and British security officials were also present during the meetings, along with representatives from Arab nations.
The move precedes next week’s meeting of the American-backed “Friends of Syria” group in Marrakech, Morocco. The coalition is comprised of dozens of nations seeking to bolster support for the Syrian opposition and increase pressure on Assad.
Many Syrians, meanwhile, say bread prices are skyrocketing and problems such as power outages are becoming more common.
“We go and look in destroyed houses for wood to make a fire,” father of two, Abu Khaled told AFP in Homs. “Our bread is made from old flour, dirty water and a bit of salt. But we still say: ‘Thank God, we are alive.’”
Sophia Jones is an intern with NPR News