Syrian rebels fire at civilian airliner
Published Friday, December 21, 2012
Syrian rebels fired “warning shots” at an airliner preparing to take off from the Aleppo airport in the first direct attack on a civilian flight since the uprising in Syria began 21 months ago, a rebel commander told Reuters on Friday.
The commander, who gave his name only as Khaldoun, said that snipers from his brigade had hit the wheels of a Syrian Air flight on Thursday.
"Those were warning shots," he said, adding that the plane had been unable to take off. "We wanted to send a message to the regime that all their planes – military and civilian – are within our reach."
There were no immediate reports of the incident on Syrian state media. Rebels have cut off many of the road links to Aleppo, Syria's biggest city.
Fighting around Damascus has made the road to the capital's international airport unsafe for traffic. Foreign airlines have stopped flying there.
Another rebel told Reuters that the Aleppo airport and Syrian Air “will be targets from now on."
Elsewhere in Syria, new clashes between pro- and anti-government fighters erupted Friday at the Yarmouk Palestinian camp near Damascus, hours after the return of thousands of people who fled earlier violence, an opposition watchdog said.
"The fresh battles pitted fighters from the pro-regime popular committees against Syrian and Palestinian rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
The Observatory also reported that rebels attacked a base protecting a military compound in a town just south of Aleppo.
Seven rebels were killed by government forces as they carried out the unsuccessful attack in the town of al-Sifra, the group said.
Also Friday, the Observatory and other groups, including the Local Coordination Committees, said rebels launched a wave of attacks on military checkpoints and posts in the central province of Hama.
On the diplomatic front, Germany’s defense minister reaffirmed that there would be no Libya-style intervention in Syria to overthrow the government.
Thomas de Maiziere told mass-circulation daily Bild that a foreign military intervention remains "absolutely not up for debate."
But he did predict that the government would fall to the opposition “soon,” in the remarks published Friday.
Russia’s president meanwhile said he not want “chaos” in Syria and that it looked forward to seeing a democratic regime in the war-torn nation.
President Vladimir Putin during a press conference on Friday said “Russia will try to pursue the public order in Syria and look forward to a democratic regime...”
“We wouldn't like chaos in that country,” he added. “Everyone is interested in stopping the violence and the bloodshed."
(Reuters, AP, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
Update, 22 December 2012: Al-Nusra Front fighters declare 'No Fly Zone' over Aleppo: Video