Syrian warplane fires on eastern edge of Damascus

Activist says is first time fighter plane fires near capital; UN's Ban condemns Daraya massacre; France warns on WMD's.

August 27, 2012 22:38
2 minute read.
Man mourns after Syrian jets strike northern town

Man mourns after Syrian jets strike northern town 370. (photo credit: reuters)

As Western diplomats continued condemning Syria on Monday, a Syrian fighter plane fired two rockets at targets on the eastern edge of Damascus, opposition activists said, the same day a military helicopter crashed in the capital in flames.

It was the first time a warplane has struck areas close to the capital, an activist source said.

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"This is the first time a warplane strikes the edges of Damascus, this plane was swooping over the area all afternoon," the Damascus-based activist told Reuters by Skype.

Earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was shocked by reports of a massacre in a town close to Syria's capital and condemned it as "an appalling and brutal crime" that should be independently investigated immediately, his spokesman said.

Syrian opposition activists accused Assad's army on Sunday of massacring hundreds of people in the town of Daraya, which government forces recaptured from rebels.

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"The secretary-general is certainly shocked by those reports and he strongly condemns this appalling and brutal crime," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said. "This needs to be investigated immediately, in an independent and impartial fashion.

"It underscores ... wherever there are atrocities, whoever is responsible needs to be held accountable and it underscores again the lack of protection for civilians that there is in Syria," he said.

He said the UN Office for the Commissioner for Human Rights was trying to gather information on the Daraya incident.

French President Francois Hollande also warned Assad on Monday that any use of the country's chemical weapons would be a legitimate justification for a military intervention.

"With our partners we remain very vigilant regarding preventing the use of chemical weapons, which for the international community would be a legitimate reason for direct intervention," Hollande said during an annual foreign policy speech to French ambassadors.

According to Syrian residents, Army helicopters on Monday had fired rockets and machineguns at neighborhoods in Damascus and its outskirts.

Video taken by activists showed a fighter plane swooping on a built-up area. An explosion is heard and a voice says: "It is firing rockets."

A statement by the Coordination Committee activists' group in the suburb of Kfar Batna said the plane, which appeared to be a Russian MiG, flew over and fired on targets close to the area. It was not immediately clear what the targets were.

Syrian President Bashar Assad increasingly has been using fighter aircraft to put down the 17-month revolt against his rule, especially on Sunni Muslim regions in the north, center and east of the country.

State television confirmed earlier that a helicopter had crashed in Damascus but gave no details. Opposition activists said rebels had shot it down.

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