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  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:46am
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SYRIA

Rebels down Syria warplane after air strike kills nine

Mortars hit Damascus stadium, kill soccer player

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:25am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:25am

Syrian rebels downed a warplane over the Damascus provincial town of Hammuriyeh on Wednesday, shortly after an air strike killed at least nine people and wounded dozens more there, 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 amateur cameraman shooting the video.

Lacking sophisticated weaponry, rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad 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 reporters.

Elsewhere, troops fought rebels around several air bases and the international airport in the northern city of Aleppo, the Observatory said.

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

Rebels launched an assault last week to seize several air bases and the Aleppo airport, in a bid to stop warplanes from taking off and to seize ammunition.

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.

Wednesday’s violence came a day after some 100 people were killed across Syria, according to the Observatory.

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

 

Mortars hit Damascus stadium, kill soccer player

Two mortars exploded next to a soccer stadium in central Damascus on Wednesday, killing one player and injuring several, Syria’s state-run news agency said.

The mortar attack was the second in as many days in the capital. On Tuesday, two mortars exploded near one of President Bashar Assad’s palaces, causing material damage only.

But it was the first confirmed strike close to a presidential palace and another sign that the civil war is moving closer to the heart of Assad’s seat of power and into areas of the capital once considered safe.

SANA news agency said the mortars landed on Wednesday in a complex housing the Tishrin Stadium and a hotel next to it in the central Baramkeh district. Some players were practicing in the stadium at the time.

It said the player killed was from the Homs-based al-Wathbah club. He was wounded inside the hotel as some players were getting ready to go out and join the practice and died later at the hospital.

The Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported one player was killed.

Players from al-Wathbah team who witnessed the attack identified the dead teammate as 19-year-old Youssef Suleiman, the team’s striker. They said he was the father of a 6-month-old baby.

They said the mortars landed in front of Tishrin hotel next to the stadium where players normally stayed, and shattered some of the building’s windows.

The attack hit a few hours before the team was to play against the Hama-based al-Mawaair club as part of the domestic league.

“We were collecting our things about to head to the stadium when we heard the first explosion and the windows were blown off,” said Ali Ghosn, a 20-year-old player.

“Youssef was hit in the neck. We ran out to the corridor when the second explosion struck and I saw Youssef fall down bleeding from his neck,” he told reporters in Damascus as some of his colleagues wept.

Ali said Suleiman died shortly after he arrived at the hospital. Three other players were wounded, one of them in critical condition.

Assad has tried to maintain an image as the head of a functioning state even as rebels edge closer to the heart of Damascus.

The capital had largely been spared the violence that has left other cities in ruins. For weeks, however, rebels who have established footholds in the suburbs have been pushing closer to the centre of Damascus from the eastern and southern outskirts, clashing with government forces. Two mortars exploded next to a soccer stadium in central Damascus Wednesday, killing one player and injuring several, Syria’s state-run news agency said.

The mortar attack was the second in as many days in the capital. On Tuesday, two mortars exploded near one of President Bashar Assad’s palaces, causing material damage only.

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