Syria rebels down helicopter, Damascus a ‘disaster’


Rebel fighters shot down a helicopter in a battleground town near Damascus on Thursday, a watchdog said, as Syria’s opposition declared parts of the capital a “disaster area.”

A series of explosions rocked the town of Douma, just northeast of Damascus, shortly before the rebels downed the helicopter, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“A helicopter went down in the Tall al-Kurdi area near Douma,” said the Britain-based Observatory, citing activists in the area. It “was shot down by rebels” following the blasts.

Syrian state television said the helicopter “crashed,” while the official news agency SANA only reported that the aircraft had gone down.

The reports came as the Syrian National Council said that south Damascus was a “disaster area,” while the army shelled Al-Hajar Al-Aswad and the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk.

“Helicopter gunships are pounding civilian homes in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad in south Damascus, using explosive-laden rockets,” said the SNC, Syria’s main opposition coalition.

“Many people have been killed or injured, but the violence of the shelling is making it difficult for activists in the area to document all their names,” it added.

On Wednesday, the Observatory reported 12 people killed in the two southern districts.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a grassroots network of anti-regime activists, had also declared south Damascus a “disaster area” on Wednesday.

“We call on the heroes of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army to intervene and to target the army of (President Bashar) al-Assad,” said the SNC. “We also call on them to open routes for the civilians to flee the catastrophic conditions they are living in,” it added.

The SNC meanwhile renewed its call on the international community to intervene on behalf of the Syrian people.

“The international and Arab response to what is happening in the world’s oldest capital city (Damascus) has been completely insufficient,” said the opposition bloc.

Violence also raged in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub in the north where dozens were killed or injured in fierce shelling by the army, said the Observatory.

The watchdog had no immediate details on the exact number killed in the Aleppo district.

The violence came a day after 125 people were killed across Syria, including 80 civilians, 17 rebels and 28 soldiers, according to the Observatory.

More than 27,000 people have been killed in violence across Syria since March last year, the Observatory says. The UN puts the figure at more than 20,000.