Wednesday August 29, 2012
Syria rebels say 5 choppers wrecked in raid on airport
BEIRUT: Syrian rebels claimed on Wednesday they had destroyed five helicopters at a military airport between the northern cities of Aleppo and Idlib, after a watchdog reported fierce clashes there.
Abu Mossab, a rebel who participated in the attack, told AFP via Skype that the rebels had shelled the Taftanaz military airport with two captured military tanks and had destroyed five military helicopters.
The airport "was shelled with two tanks. Anti-aircraft batteries were also used," according to Abu Mossab.
"We destroyed five helicopters as well as buildings in the airport," he added, noting however that the airport was "still in the hands of the regime." The rebels, who lost two men in the fighting, later retreated.
Abu Mossab's claims could not be independently verified. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had earlier in the day reported fierce fighting near the airport and attacks on the nearby town of Taftanaz by the government helicopters.
The Britain-based Observatory said initial reports indicated government troops suffered 14 casualties in the fighting at Taftanaz, while two rebels and one civilian died elsewhere in Idlib province.
The airport has been the target of several attacks in past weeks by insurgents entrenched in Aleppo and Idlib, which have suffered daily shelling by government troops.
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, while the Observatory reported attacks by combat helicopters on the eastern suburb of Saqba as well as shelling further into the city in the district of Zamalka.
Meanwhile, clashes broke out between rebels and government troops in the east Damascus neighbourhood of Qaboon and five civilians were killed in nearby Jubar neighbourhood, the Observatory said.
The Syrian Revolution General Council, a local network of opposition activists, reported fierce shelling, along with artillery fire, throughout the eastern limits of the city.
In the suburb of Kfar Batna, it said that mortar fire was landing at the rate of one shell per minute over densely populated areas and farmland, while nearby Irbin was also being shelled.
In the central city of Homs, the districts of Old Homs, Khaldiyeh and Juret al-Shiyah came under army bombardment, while one person was killed in shelling on the town of Rastan, the Observatory said.
The violence followed a bloody day on Tuesday in which the Observatory reported that 189 people were killed countrywide: 143 civilians, 14 rebels and 32 soldiers.
The watchdog says that over 25,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule broke out in March last year. - AFP