News24

Syria rebels hit jet, hold pilot - claim

2012-08-14 07:35

Aleppo - Syria's rebels were jubilant on Tuesday, claiming to have shot down a jet and captured its pilot, an apparent victory against the overwhelmingly superior firepower of President Bashar Assad's forces.

Video uploaded onto the internet on Monday showed the jet bursting into flames as it streaked through the sky amid heavy gunfire. The rebels said they had hit it with newly acquired high-calibre anti-aircraft guns.

The government said it had crashed due to technical problems while on a "regular training mission".

Rebels also released a video of a man they said was the pilot. They said he had been captured after ejecting while his stricken aircraft plunged from the sky.

"We will treat this prisoner according to what is required of us by our religion, our morals and the protocols in the Geneva convention related to prisoners of war," a rebel identified as Captain Abu Laith said in the video.

However, other disturbing footage on YouTube appeared to show rebels meting out violent justice. In one video, dead bodies are thrown from the rooftop of a post office, while a crowd of shouting men watch.

Slit throat


Enraged members of the crowd kick the bodies down stairs and can be heard calling them members of the shabiha pro-government militia.

In another video, a young man's throat is slit with a knife by captors who accuse him of being a member of the shabiha while his blood pours on the ground and his last breath rattles. Rebels said the video may have been made by government forces to discredit them.

Such images will cause alarm among Western countries that have backed the rebels publicly but are worried about the presence in their midst of hardcore al-Qaeda-style Sunni Muslim fighters who use the ruthless tactics that became common in the sectarian bloodbath in neighbouring Iraq.

The shabiha, mainly drawn from Assad's minority Alawite sect, have been accused of carrying out massacres of Sunnis.

The downing of a fighter jet would be a rare coup for the lightly armed rebels up against the superior weaponry of Assad's forces, which have made increasing use of air power in recent months.

The Pentagon said it deplored what it saw as Assad's increasing use of air power but stopped short of suggesting any move towards steps such as a no-fly zone.

Plight of residents


Reuters journalists have seen fighter jets firing rockets at rebel-held villages and districts in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's biggest city and this month's main battle front.

Rebels have poured since the middle of July into the capital Damascus and then Aleppo, transforming the conflict after a bomb killed four members of Assad's inner circle.

Government forces have largely recaptured Damascus, but fighting has raged on in Aleppo, worsening the plight of residents.

On Monday, four civilians lay dead in a street in Saif al-Dawla, next to the bitterly contested Salaheddine district. All were victims of army sniper fire, rebels said.

The bodies of a man and a woman were slumped in a bullet-riddled yellow taxi. A bloated male corpse lay on a pile of rubbish. Another dead man sprawled in the street, his face purple and bloated, with several dolls lying near his hand.

Food is running short in the city of several million, and what is left has become far more expensive. State-run groceries that sold heavily subsidised staples have shut. In the Bustan al-Qasr district, hundreds of men lined up for bread.

Emergency aid

At a makeshift hospital set up to treat wounded, one doctor said some people were arriving seeking food rather than medicine.

Another doctor described a man who had been shot in the foot while carrying home food for his family. He was more worried about losing his groceries than about his wound.

"He started crying: 'My food! My food! Someone catch my tomatoes!'" said the doctor who witnessed the incident.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos will go to Syria on Tuesday to discuss how to increase emergency aid, but diplomats said fighting must ease to allow access to trouble spots.

"Two million people are now estimated to have been affected by the crisis and over one million have been internally displaced," a UN statement said.

The head of a faltering UN monitoring mission said violence was intensifying across Syria and accused both sides of ignoring the plight of civilians caught up in the conflict.

Isolated

"The indiscriminate use of heavy weapons by the government and targeted attacks by the opposition in urban centres are inflicting a heavy toll on innocent civilians," General Babacar Gaye said in Damascus. "I deeply regret that none of the parties has prioritised the needs of civilians."

Syria has been isolated in the region as its Arab League neighbours and Turkey have taken up the anti-Assad cause, leaving him with few allies, including Russia, China and Iran.

Foreign ministers at a meeting of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Co-operation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, agreed on Monday to suspend Syria's membership, an OIC source said.

The motion, which requires a two-thirds majority and is opposed by Tehran, will be adopted during a two-day summit in Mecca.

China said it would host Assad aide Bouthaina Shaaban on Tuesday and consider separately inviting opposition figures. The opposition has rejected Chinese peace overtures.

Comments
  • alfred.neumann.142 - 2012-08-14 08:07

    One of Assad's aircraft bursting into flames (that ain't no "regular training mission") http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=896_1344854380 FSA throwing bodies of postal workers off building (Graphic) http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f95_1344778085

      jaba.kov - 2012-08-14 14:34

      I will advise people to rather not watch the second video... its just too crazy. Many in the West fear giving people who have zero value for human life nuclear weapons. Iran must never acquire these weapons because it seems like members of the religion of peace will not think twice before turning a European capital to ashes in the name of their God. I will never understand this type of brutality... I don’t think any westerner could comprehend this type of insanity. Last week a South African deputy minister (Ibrahim Ibrahim) asked South Africans to avoid doing business with the state of Israel... He said this not because Israel is guilty of any wrongs, but rather because of his religion. If he wanted peace he would encourage the two sides to talk rather then alienating one party - I would be surprised if this heartless Minster would even cringe if he saw the videos coming out of Syria… still… no word about Syria by our government while Israel remains there number one target.

  • imam.madi.129 - 2012-08-14 13:01

    Let the west see how barbaric the side they have chose to support is. No wonder the so called revolution is revulsion to many syrians now. Killing postal workers and civil servants whose only guilt is to report for duty is not different from the killing in 9/11. So if the west smile and applaud these thugs when they do that, they must not label people as terrorist supporters if people share no tears for horrible events such as 9/11. Do they wonder why people in Allepo are not helping the FSA? All the armed thugs in Allepo are outsiders, raping, killing and destroying a historic city for the pleasure of their backers and zionists.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-08-14 14:00

      The same convoluted drivel.

  • jaba.kov - 2012-08-14 14:16

    "We will treat this prisoner according to what is required of us by our religion, our morals..." So he will be lynched to death slowly while his body will be discarded into another sewer… and to think that this behaviour is far better than what the Syrian army is doing to its own population. Religion of peace… sorry I need proof.

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