Helicopter crashes near Damascus20/09/2012 - 10:20:07
A Syrian military helicopter has crashed in a rebellious suburb of Damascus, state-run TV says.
The helicopter crashed south-east of Douma, a suburb that has witnessed repeated military crackdowns against fighters seeking to topple president Bashar Assad. No further details were made available.
“We heard the sound of several explosions and some gunfire, and few minutes later, we were told that a helicopter had crashed,” said Mohammad Saeed, an activist in Douma.
In Damascus, soldiers raided a Palestinian refugee camp where many Syrians from other parts of the country’s capital and its suburbs have been sheltering, arresting dozens of people in a sweeping operation, the government and opposition groups said.
Syrian TV said an army unit conducted a “special operation” during which about 100 gunmen were captured in the Palestinian refugee camps of Yarmouk and Palestine in Damascus.
The Local Co-ordination Committees activist network reported gunfire and several casualties that accompanied the raid.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three people were killed and dozens of others were arrested when troops stormed parts of the Yarmouk camp that has provided shelter for many residents of Damascus’ Hajar al-Aswad district, an area that has seen heavy fighting between rebels and government troops in recent days.
The government has increasingly been using helicopters and other aircraft in its fight against an 18-month-old rebellion against Mr Assad’s rule.
Rebels have claimed to have shot down helicopters and warplanes in the past, although the regime has blamed most of the problems on mechanical difficulties.
Mr Saeed said Syrian MiG warplanes and helicopter gunships had been flying low over the south-eastern part of Douma before the crash.
Rebels in Syria are fighting mostly with light weapons but are increasingly claiming success in downing government aircraft.
In the first week of September, rebels said they shot down a MiG aircraft in Abu al-Dhuhour, an area in the north-western province of Idlib.
On August 13, rebels claimed to have shot down a regime MiG-23 warplane and captured the pilot in Deir el-Zour. Syria said the pilot ejected after a technical malfunction.
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