Last updated: 20 February, 2013

Rebels down Syrian warplane after air strike kills at least 9 people

Syrian rebels downed a warplane over Hammuriyeh on Wednesday, shortly after an air strike killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens more in the Damascus province town, a watchdog and activists said.

Amateur video shot by activists and distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed a warplane firing from the sky and then going down in flames after apparently being hit.

“It’s gone up in flames! Allahu akbar (God is greatest)! The (rebel) Free Syrian Army air defence battalions have hit a MiG warplane!” cried the cameraman filming the video.

Lacking sophisticated weaponry, rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have frequently used heavy machineguns to shoot down warplanes deployed to strike insurgent enclaves across the country.

“The shelling and bombardment in Eastern Ghuta province on Wednesday was fierce,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that the warplane was shot down as it was bombarding the town.

The air strike killed 12 men, a woman and a child, said the Britain-based watchdog which relies on a network of activists, medics and lawyers on the ground for its information.

A video filmed by activists in Hammuriyeh and distributed on Facebook showed residents in the aftermath of the strike pouring water on a burning corpse on the ground, and another two in destroyed vehicles.

The video, which AFP is unable to verify, also showed a lorry on fire and widespread destruction in the area.

Elsewhere, clashes raged between rebels and troops in the northern province of Aleppo, days after rebels launched an assault to seize the international airport and other air bases in the region.

“The clashes around Kwayris military airport were fierce today, and there were also intermittent battles around Aleppo international airport and Nayrab military air base,” said Abdel Rahman.

Activists say the rebels’ assault is aimed at stopping warplanes from taking off, and at seizing ammunition, while rebels say it is part of a bid to expel troops from the north.

In the past week, rebels have captured air bases at Al-Jarrah, Hassel and Base 80, as well as an important checkpoint near the international airport.

“When the Free Syrian Army manages to free all the border crossings in the north and the airports in Aleppo, the area will fall completely out of regime control,” rebel commander in the northern province, Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, told AFP by phone.

“But as you saw on Monday night, the army is keen to take revenge against the Syrian people,” he added, referring to a powerful missile strike on the Aleppo district of Jabal Badro that killed at least 33 people, according to the latest Observatory count.

The UN says more than 70,000 people have been killed in Syria’s nearly two-year war, most of them civilians.

According to a preliminary toll by the Observatory at least 107 people were killed in violence across Syria on Wednesday, among them 54 civilians.