Kurds, allies seize most of key air base in north Syria: monitor

Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) sit in the back of a vehicle in the al-Zohour neighbourhood of the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh (AFP Photo/Delil Souleiman)

Beirut (AFP) - Kurdish forces backed by Arab rebel groups on Wednesday seized most of a key military airport and the adjacent town in northern Syria from rival anti-government factions, a monitoring group said.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and its Arab allies expelled Islamist and other rebel fighters from the town of Minnigh and overran "more than half" of the nearby air base, north of Syria's second city Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The advance comes after days of fierce clashes that saw YPG forces advance east from the Kurdish stronghold of Afrin and take over a series of villages before reaching Minnigh.

Clashes were ongoing inside the airport, where Islamist rebels were trying to maintain a grip on the last military air base they hold in Aleppo province, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Government forces lost control of the Minnigh airport in August 2013.

Rebel groups are facing a dual advance by both Kurdish forces coming from the west and regime troops -- backed by a barrage of Russian air strikes -- pressing an offensive north from Aleppo city.

More than 500 people have been killed since the government began its assault on February 1, the Observatory said Wednesday.