Al-Nusra Front fighters declare 'No Fly Zone' over Aleppo: Video
Published Saturday, December 22, 2012
Syrian jihadi rebel group Al-Nusra Front have declared a no-fly-zone over Aleppo, warning airlines that they risk being fired upon if they fly over the city, in an announcement that coincided with reports of the first rebel attack on a civil airliner.
The group's statement, aired on Al-Jazeera Friday night, said its fighters have surrounded Aleppo's Nayrab airport, and that they intended to fire on it as well as on planes flying over it. It claimed the Syrian government was using civilian flights to transport soldiers.
“We the Al-Nusra Front declare an air embargo after receiving document reports that the Syrian Regime is using civilian planes to transport its soldiers and arms to kill the defenseless Syrian people,” said a masked militant reading the group's statement.
“First, we warn all civilians from using civilian flights and being used as human shields for the soldiers that are killing their brethren in Aleppo.
Secondly, [we announce] that we have surrounded the Nayrab airport in Aleppo, and are targeting all planes in its skies.”
Al-Nusra Front was recently designated a terrorist group by the US, triggering an outcry from US and Saudi-backed Syrian opposition leaders who demanded that the decision be retracted.
The opposition said it considered the group to be an important part of the movement to depose President Bashar al-Assad.
Al-Nusra Front gained prominence after carrying out several crushing militant attacks against the Syrian government, most recently with a Damascus bomb attack that wounded Syrian interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar.
The group is an Islamist group that has said it intends to implement hardline interpretations of Islamic Sharia in a post-Assad Syria.
Also on Friday, Syrian rebels said they fired “warning shots” at a commercial flight 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, who identified only as Khaldoun, told Reuters that snipers from his brigade had hit the wheels of a Syrian Air flight on Thursday.
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.
Another rebel told Reuters that the Aleppo airport and Syrian Air “will be targets from now on.”