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      Syrian Rebels Down Warplane

      Syrian rebels down a warplane over Hammuriyeh after an air strike kills at least 14 people in the Damascus province town.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 2/21/2013, 5:42 AM

      Damaged buildings in the Jdeideh district of Aleppo
      Damaged buildings in the Jdeideh district of Aleppo
      Reuters

      Syrian rebels downed a warplane over Hammuriyeh on Wednesday, shortly after an air strike killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens more in the Damascus province town, a watchdog and activists said, according to AFP.

      Amateur video shot by activists and distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed a warplane firing from the sky and then going down in flames after apparently being hit.

      "It's gone up in flames! Allahu akbar The Free Syrian Army air defense battalions have hit a MiG warplane!" cried the cameraman filming the video, according to AFP.

      Lacking sophisticated weaponry, rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime have frequently used heavy machineguns to shoot down warplanes deployed to strike insurgent enclaves across the country.

      "The shelling and bombardment in Eastern Ghuta province on Wednesday was fierce," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that the warplane was shot down as it was bombarding the town.

      The air strike killed 12 men, a woman and a child, said the Britain-based watchdog which relies on a network of activists, medics and lawyers on the ground for its information.

      A video filmed by activists in Hammuriyeh and distributed on Facebook showed residents in the aftermath of the strike pouring water on a burning corpse on the ground, and another two in destroyed vehicles.

      Elsewhere, AFP reported, clashes raged between rebels and troops in the northern province of Aleppo, days after rebels launched an assault to seize the international airport and other air bases in the region.

      "The clashes around Kwayris military airport were fierce today, and there were also intermittent battles around Aleppo international airport and Nayrab military air base," said Abdel Rahman.

      Activists say the rebels' assault is aimed at stopping warplanes from taking off, and at seizing ammunition, while rebels say it is part of a bid to expel troops from the north.

      In the past week, rebels have captured air bases at Al-Jarrah, Hassel and Base 80, as well as an important checkpoint near the international airport.

      "When the Free Syrian Army manages to free all the border crossings in the north and the airports in Aleppo, the area will fall completely out of regime control," rebel commander in the northern province, Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, told AFP.

      "But as you saw on Monday night, the army is keen to take revenge against the Syrian people," he added, referring to a powerful missile strike on the Aleppo district of Jabal Badro that killed at least 33 people, according to the latest Observatory count.

      According to a preliminary toll by the Observatory at least 107 people were killed in violence across Syria on Wednesday, among them 54 civilians.

      Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Free Syrian Army threatened to shell positions of Hizbullah in neighboring Lebanon after accusing it of firing across the border into territory it controls.

      "In the past week... Hizbullah has been shelling into villages around Qusayr from Lebanese territory, and that we cannot accept," General Selim Idriss, the FSA's chief of staff, told AFP on the phone, adding that the rebels have given Hizbullah a 48-hour deadline to stop the attacks.

      Lebanon is sharply divided over the Syrian conflict, with the Sunni-led March 14 movement supporting the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad and the Shiite Hizbullah and its allies backing the regime.

      On Saturday, Lebanon’s Future bloc MP Khaled Daher charged that his country is supplying the armed forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with explosives.

      Daher revealed at a news conference that trucks have been carrying tons of explosives across the country’s eastern border to Syria for months.

      Assad told a Jordanian delegation that met him recently that he is “not a monster” as the rebels have portrayed him.

      "All those who talk about me and Syria forget that I am human, made of flesh and blood, and I have feelings. They forget that I am a doctor and I am pained by scenes of blood and death," he said.

      Assad told the activists that he adamantly refuses to resign from the presidency. He insisted that he will run for president again when his present term expires in 2014.