Pro-government forces repel ISIL attack on Syria airport

The attack on the military airport at Khalkhalah was the first by the extremist group, but it has been targeted before by other rebels, including Syria's Al Qaeda affiliate

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BEIRUT // Pro-government forces repelled an attack on a key Syrian military airport by ISIL militants, losing 20 fighters but killing almost as many extremists, a monitor said on Saturday.

“Militants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group attacked the outskirts of the Khalkhalah military airport in Sweida province on Friday,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Forces loyal to president Bashar Al Assad maintained control over the airport and its surrounding areas despite losing 20 fighters. At least 15 ISIL militants were killed.

Syria’s official news agency SANA said the army had “blocked attempts from IS terrorists to infiltrate” areas near the airport.

Khalkhalah lies along a major motorway between Damascus and the regime-held city of Sweida, a stronghold of the Druze minority that has largely avoided the bloodshed of Syria’s war.

The attack on Khalkhalah was the first by ISIL, but the airport has been previously targeted by rebels and Syria’s Al Qaeda affiliate.

In March, Syrian rebels and fighters seized the town of Bosra Al Sham, which is south of Sweida but located along the same motorway as Khalkhalah airport.

Also on Friday, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate withdrew from a key area along Syria’s border with Jordan, the Observatory said.

Rebels and JabhatAl Nusra took control of the Nasib crossing in the southern province of Daraa from regime forces last month.

* Agence France-Presse