Photos from T-4 base indicate full-scale conflict between two of region’s most formidable enemies could be edging closer

Isolated in the barren sands of central Syria and measuring five miles across in some areas is the country’s largest airbase. A fortress surrounded by hundreds of miles of desert, T-4 consists of dozens of hardened aircraft shelters, hiding Russian fighter jets and supersonic Sukhoi bombers.

Over seven years of conflict its runway has been blackened by the rubber tyres of jets returning from sorties in the devastating war between the forces of Bashar al-Assad and the rebels who have failed to overthrow him.

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