BEIRUT -- Syrian rebels captured a helicopter base Sunday just outside Damascus in what an activist called a "blow to the morale of the regime" near President Bashar Assad's seat of power, while the bombardment of a village near the capital killed at least eight children.
Activists said the children, who were playing outdoors, were killed when Syrian warplanes bombed the village of Deir al-Asafir just outside the Damascus. The village is close to suburbs of the capital that has been witnessing clashes, shelling and air raids between troops and rebels over the past months. Syria restricts the access of reporters.
Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with an uprising against Mr. Assad's regime, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts. It quickly morphed into a civil war that has since killed more than 40,000 people, according to activists. Hundreds of children have been killed since the crisis began, according to activists.
The air base takeover claim showed how rebels are advancing in the area of the capital, though they are badly outgunned, making inroads where Mr. Assad's power was once unchallenged. Rebels have also been able to fire mortar rounds into Damascus recently.
The director of the Observatory, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said rebels seized control of the Marj al-Sultan base on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday morning. He said at least 15 rebels and eight soldiers were killed in the fighting that started a day earlier. The rebels later withdrew from the base.
Rebels appear to be trying to take over air bases and destroy aircraft in order to prevent the regime from using them in attacks against opposition forces around the country.
The rebels have no protection against the attack helicopters and fighter jets that have been blasting their positions.
Rebels have been attacking air bases in different parts of Syria, mostly in the northern regions of Idlib and Aleppo.