JERUSALEM – Syrian opposition fighters battling the forces of President Bashar al-Assad managed to shoot down a military helicopter this morning in a neighborhood in the north of the capital Damascus.
In a short video clip posted by activists online, a helicopter is seen flying over the al-Qaboon neighborhood on fire, a trail of smoke behind it. Rounds from what sounds like an anti-aircraft gun are fired and cheers of “God is great” erupt as the helicopter plummets towards the ground.
The video could not be independently verified. Syrian state television confirmed in a bulletin that the helicopter had come down, but did not say it had been shot down.
Opposition activists said the helicopter had been attacking the neighborhood of Jobar.
“It was flying overhead the eastern part of the city and firing all morning,” an activist told Reuters. “The rebels had been trying to hit it for about an hour, and finally they did.”
This follows a crash by a fighter jet in eastern Syria two weeks ago. Rebels claimed to have downed a low-flying Mig-23 with a heavy machine gun and then released a video with a man they said was the captured pilot. The Syrian state news agency blamed a technical failure that “caused the command devices to break down, and the pilot to leave the plane by the ejection seat.”
There was no sign in either incident of Stinger missiles the opposition Free Syrian Army is reported to have acquired.
Opposition forces have long begged the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Syria. Helicopter gunships and, more recently, jets have been widely used against the rebels in this 18-month conflict.
The helicopter crash comes a day after mass burials were held for victims of what activists are calling a massacre in the town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus. More than 200 bodies were said to have been found on Saturday, most of them killed execution-style with a bullet in the head. Daraya had been under siege for much of last week, continually shelled by regime forces. Residents said troops then went door-to-door killing people in their homes, including entire families. State media said Daraya had been “cleansed of terrorist remnants.”