DAMASCUS: Syrian rebels claimed they shot down an army helicopter during fierce fighting in Damascus on Monday, saying it was to avenge the “massacre” of over 330 people in the town of Daraya blamed on regime forces.
State television said the aircraft crashed near a mosque in the eastern district of Qaboon, where activists reported shelling, heavy fire by combat helicopters and clashes between government troops and Free Syrian Army rebels.
“It was in revenge for the Daraya massacre,” Omar al-Qabooni, spokesman for the FSA’s Badr battalion in Damascus told AFP, adding that rebels had found the body of the pilot after the helicopter crashed to the ground in a ball of flames.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported intensified shelling by regime forces after the helicopter came down in many areas in and around eastern Damascus where anti-regime sentiment is strong.
The FSA had previously said it shot down a Syrian warplane two weeks ago in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and captured its pilot, but the claims cannot be independently confirmed.
The assault on the northeast of the capital was unleashed a day after opposition activists accused President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of a gruesome new massacre in Daraya, southwest of the capital.
The Observatory said hundreds of bodies had been found in the small Sunni Muslim town after what activists described as brutal five-day onslaught of shelling, summary executions and house-to-house raids by government troops.
It said Monday that a total of 334 bodies had now been found in Daraya.