BEIRUT — Syrian insurgents seized control of a northern military airfield on Tuesday and captured usable warplanes for the first time in the nearly two-year-old conflict, according to rebels and activist groups. The development, if confirmed, would represent the second strategic setback for President Bashar Assad’s government this week.
The reported seizure of Al Jarrah airfield in Aleppo Province, corroborated by rebel video clips online, came a day after insurgent fighters announced that they had taken control of Syria’s largest hydroelectric dam, which supplies power to areas held by Assad’s security forces and by the insurgent Free Syrian Army and affiliated rebel groups. Whoever controls that dam, situated on the Euphrates River in northeast Raqqa Province, theoretically has the ability to deny electric power to significant areas held by the other side.
The developments coincided with a sharply higher estimate of total casualties in the conflict — nearly 70,000 — from the top human rights official at the United Nations, Navi Pillay, in a report to the Security Council, which has been deadlocked on how to deal with Syria