Syrian rebel forces on Tuesday seized a military post southeast of Aleppo, tightening the noose around the northern city, the insurgents and a watchdog said.
After hours of fighting, the rebels in the area 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Aleppo, Syria's second city, said they had taken the post at dawn in the village of Al-Mintar, near Al-Safireh.
They said the operation was carried out by the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham of the Free Syrian Army, the main component of the armed opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Seventy soldiers were killed or captured in the fighting.
The commander of the post, Colonel Ayman Shaar, managed to escape, however, the rebels said.
Six 23-mm cannons, rocket batteries, weapons and ammunition were seized by the rebels, who also said nine of their fighters were killed.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the reports, but said six rebels were killed in the fighting.
A military helicopter was struck meanwhile while bombing near the base of Sheikh Suleiman, 25 kilometres northwest of Aleppo, said the watchdog, which relies on a network of activists and medics for its information.
The rebels besieged Base 46 for two months before taking about 10 days to gain control one of the army's last strongholds in northwestern Syria.
The Observatory says more than 40,000 people have been killed since the eruption in March 2011 of a popular uprising that turned into an armed insurgency following a bloody regime crackdown.