Syria rebels claim warplane shot down

2012-08-30 15:03
(AP, File)

(AP, File)

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Damascus - Damascus and Cairo clashed angrily at a Non-Aligned summit in Tehran on Thursday as rebels claimed to have shot down a MiG warplane over northwest Syria.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi caused a storm with a speech at the summit slamming the Syrian regime as "oppressive" and urging support for rebels out to topple President Bashar Assad.

"The revolution in Egypt is the cornerstone for the Arab Spring, which started days after Tunisia and then it was followed by Libya and Yemen and now the revolution in Syria against its oppressive regime," Morsi said.

"Our solidarity with the struggle of Syrians against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty, and a political and strategic necessity," he added.

With his delegation walking out in protest, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem swiftly accused Morsi of using his speech to incite further bloodshed in Syria.

The speech amounted to "interference in Syria's internal affairs and ... incites continued bloodshed in Syria," he said, quoted from Tehran on Syrian state television.

Pre-dawn clashes

On top of the regional pressure on Damascus, the UN Security Council was to meet later on Thursday to tackle deteriorating humanitarian conditions inside Syria and along its borders, a day after Assad rejected moves to create buffer zones.

The meeting comes as violence whipped through eastern suburbs of Damascus, where activists said pre-dawn clashes broke out between the army and rebels, a bloody day in which 44 civilians were killed in the capital alone.

The Syrian Revolution General Council, a network of local activists, said gunfire reverberated around the Qaboon district of eastern Damascus, where rebels earlier this week claimed to have shot down a helicopter.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, another activist network, said fighting also broke out in southern Tadamun neighbourhood, where shelling and machinegun fire was heard.

Rebels meanwhile said they shot down a MiG aircraft near Abu el-Zohur military airport in the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday.

"A MiG was shot down this morning by our men using automatic weapons ... The two pilots who parachuted from the plane were captured," Colonel Afif Mahmoud Suleiman, provincial commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, said.

Buffer zones


There was no immediate confirmation of the claim.

In Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria, rebels sent mortars crashing into a military security headquarters in Albi Kamal town, while fierce clashes broke out in Deir Ezzor city near another military security headquarters, the Observatory said.

The Security Council meeting called by France is aimed at "appealing to world conscience and for mobilisation" in the face of the Syrian humanitarian drama, a diplomat said in New York.

Turkey has floated the idea of creating buffer zones within Syria to receive those displaced by the conflict so they do not flood across the borders into neighbouring countries.

Assad, however, scoffed at the idea in an interview on Wednesday with pro-regime Addounia TV channel.

"Talk of buffer zones firstly is not on the table and secondly it is an unrealistic idea by hostile countries and the enemies of Syria," the embattled leader said.

Complications


He also said his forces need more time to win the battle in Syria, amid fresh fighting, which according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights killed another 128 nationwide on Wednesday - 77 civilians, 19 rebels, 32 soldiers.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will preside the UN meeting as France heads the Council in August, said on Wednesday the issue of buffer zones would be brought up, even if "it is very complicated".

Syria's neighbours Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq were all to send ministers to the meeting.

French President Francois Hollande has said France was working with its partners on the possible establishment of such buffer zones.

But Fabius admitted implementing these would be "very complicated" and require the imposition of partial no-fly zones.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said Turkey is in talks with the United Nations on ways to shelter thousands of refugees on Syrian soil.

War crimes

"We expect the United Nations to step in for the protection of refugees inside Syria and if possible housing them in camps there," Davutoglu was quoted as saying by Turkey's Anatolia news agency.

The new UN-Arab League envoy on the Syria conflict, Lakhdar Brahimi, wants to visit Damascus in the next three weeks, his spokesperson told reporters at the United Nations.

Human Rights Watch meanwhile said that Syrian government troops committed war crimes when they dropped bombs and fired artillery at or near at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo province over the past three weeks.

Attacks on bread lines in the northern province have killed and maimed scores of civilians, HRW said, after its researchers visited six of the targeted bakeries and interviewed witnesses.

Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  francois hollande  |  bashar assad  |  egypt  |  syria  |  iran  |  north africa  |  uprisings  |  syria conflict
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