Last updated: 29 August, 2012

Syrian rebels destroy five helicopters in raid

Syrian rebels said they destroyed five helicopters in a raid on a military airport between the northern cities of Aleppo and Idlib on Wednesday, while state television said the attack was repelled.

Abu Mossab, a rebel who said he took part in the attack, told AFP via Skype that rebels shelled Taftanaz military airport with two tanks captured from the army and destroyed five helicopters.

“We destroyed five helicopters as well as buildings in the airport,” Abu Mossab said, although the facility remained in army hands after the raid in which the rebels lost two men before pulling back.

“The regime’s MiG planes continue to bomb houses in Taftanaz, which has been emptied of its inhabitants,” the rebel added.

Syrian state television said the military repelled the attack with the airport suffering “no material damage.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier reported fierce fighting near the airport and helicopter raids on the nearby town of Taftanaz.

Initial reports indicated government troops suffered 14 casualties in Taftanaz, while two rebels and a civilian were killed elsewhere in Idlib province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

The airport has been the target of several attacks in past weeks by insurgents entrenched in Aleppo and Idlib, which have come under daily shelling by government forces.

In Aleppo city, where the army and rebels have battled for over a month for control, fierce clashes broke out between the two sides in several districts, according to the watchdog.

And in Damascus, activists reported a third straight day of army attacks on rebel strongholds in the eastern outer belt of the city, collectively referred to as East Ghuta.

The Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground, said warplanes and helicopters bombed and strafed all the East Ghuta suburbs.

The Observatory reported attacks by combat helicopters on the eastern suburb of Saqba as well as shelling further inside the city in Zamalka district.

State media said “terrorist mercenaries” had killed four civilians in Zamalka, using its term for rebels fighting government forces since Syria’s anti-regime uprising broke out in March 2011.

They had “murdered citizens, including women and men, under the eyes of inhabitants … The terrorists then gathered the bodies of the victims and put them in a mosque in Qadi Askar” district, state news agency SANA said.

It said the assailants had planned to blow up the mosque and then blame the attack on government forces.

Clashes also broke out on Wednesday between rebels and government troops in the eastern Damascus neighbourhood of Qaboon and five civilians were killed in nearby Jubar, the Observatory said.

And in the city of Homs, several districts came under army bombardment, while one person was killed in shelling of Rastan, elsewhere in central Syria, according to the monitoring group.

Violence on Tuesday cost 189 lives: 143 civilians, 14 rebels and 32 soldiers, the Observatory said. It says a total of more than 25,000 people have been killed in the 17-month-long revolt.