DAMASCUS, April 19 (Xinhua) -- Intense clashes have flared up in the vicinity of the Syrian army's 17th Division base in Syria's northern province of al-Raqqa, pro-government Sham FM radio reported Friday.
The clashes, which have been raging for days, flared on Friday between the Syrian army and armed rebels trying to push in to take control over the base, the report said, adding that thousands of rebels have poured in to the area a day earlier to boost the rebels' attempt to storm the base.
The radio report, however, said that "large numbers" of armed men were killed during Friday's attack. It also added that a number of government soldiers were killed in the fighting that has intensified since early hours of Friday.
Quoting what it named as a military source, the Sham FM report denied the rebels' entry to the base "despite the various weaponries they are using."
Recently, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the 17th Division is considered the last bastion of government troops in al-Raqqa city after the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front stormed the city last month. It said the Syrian air force is backing the base's soldiers to fend off the armed militia 's attack.
Al-Raqqa, a predominantly Sunni city that sits at a strategic gateway between the northern city of Aleppo, the eastern Deir al- Zour and central Homs province, fell to the hands of al-Qaida's franchise in Syria, Nusra Front, and the Salafi al-Sham brigade among other Islamist brigades on March 4 after a large-scale attack.
The Syrian government then said the rebels' control over the city was "a matter of time" and pledged it would restore the city soon.