'Syria rebels down Iranian plane carrying weapons'

According to Syrian rebel sources, anti-regime forces fired at Iranian plane while it was on runway at Damascus airport.

Iranian plane allegedly goes up in flames at Syria airport (photo credit: Youtube screenshot)
Iranian plane allegedly goes up in flames at Syria airport
(photo credit: Youtube screenshot)
Syrian rebels claimed on Thursday that rebel forces had hit an Iranian plane suspected of carrying weapons to Iran while it was on the runway in the Damascus airport.
According to the reports emerging from Syrian rebel sources, the forces fired at the plane with anti-aircraft weaponry on Wednesday as it landed at the airport.
The plane apparently crashed at the airport, exploded and went up in flames, causing a fire at the main terminal, opposition activists said.
Video released by opposition activists showed a large airliner flying before it appeared to be struck with a fireball.
Al Jazeera quoted opposition sources that said the smoke from the explosion and fighting in the area caused a stoppage to passenger traffic.
The network quoted that the Syrian official media reported that a fire broke out because of an electrical short-circuit.
The video and the rebel claim could not be immediately verified independently because the Syrian government restricts the access of outside journalists to conflict zones.
The Syrian Arab News Agency quoted the Damascus International Airport Administration as denying the reports, stating that the airport continued to operate normally.
“News circulated by some media outlets, which are partners in the bloodshed of the Syrians, regarding the airport is false and untrue,” it said.
Syrian state media insisted that flights were arriving and departing on schedule.
Meanwhile, about a dozen students at Damascus University's architecture college were killed in separate mortar attacks.
State television also showed footage from a cafeteria at Damascus University where the floors were soaked with blood following the mortar strike.
State media blamed the attacks on the opposition, while activists were divided on whether the mortar fire is coming from rebels or the regime's army.
“This is the constant situation in Damascus,” said Riyad, an activist who asked to be identified by his first name only for security sake.
He blamed the rebels for the shelling, saying: “I’m against this.”
The Syrian capital, which during much of the two-year- old conflict had been a haven from the violence in the rest of the country, has increasingly come under attack in recent weeks.
The airport has been a target of the rebels for several months, and clashes regularly erupt on the highway leading there. While the facility has not been officially closed, few flights now arrive or depart.
“Anything that lands at the airport is targeted," said Capt. Islam Aloush, with the Islam Brigade, one of the largest rebel groups in Damascus, “because the airport has become solely a military airport.”
Aloush said there was no definitive confirmation the Iranian plane was carrying weapons.
The alleged downing of the plane came just days after Secretary of State John Kerry confronted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki about continuing to grant Iran access to its airspace.
US officials believe Iran is sending weapons and fighters to the Syrian government and giving it the upper hand militarily in the ongoing conflict with opposition fighters.
Iran has denied supplying the regime with weapons.
The Los Angeles Times/MCT and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.