Death toll up in Syria as army helicopter crashes after hitting airliner


At least 70 people were killed and dozens wounded when an air strike hit a fuel station in Syria’s northern province of al-Raqqa on Thursday, according to its military council.

Earlier in the day, the Local Coordination Committees had reported that at least 150 people were killed in the incident.

Elsewhere, as many as 222 people have been killed by the syrian forces across the country, activists said.

Meanwhile, Syria’s information ministry said that a Syrian military helicopter that crashed near the capital Damascus earlier on Thursday hit the tail of a passenger plane but the 200 people on board escaped unharmed.

“The helicopter struck the tail of the plane ... The control tower at Damascus airport confirmed that the plane landed safely at Damascus airport and all 200 passengers are in good health,” a statement published on the state news channel Suriya said.

Suriya said earlier that a helicopter had crashed in the town of Duma east of the Syrian capital, without giving any details.

Rebel fighters seeking to overthrow Bashar al-Assad have increasingly attacked planes and helicopters which the Syrian president has used to crush opposition strongholds, bringing down a helicopter on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 27.

Early September, the Free Syrian Army claimed that it had downed two Syrian government MiG jets in Abu al-Dhuhour, an area in the northwestern province of Idlib.

On the ground, Syrian rebels seized a crossing on the Turkish border Wednesday, the fourth they have captured in recent months.

Turkish media footage showed rebel fighters pulling down the regime flag at a crossing on the main highway between the city of Raqa in northeastern Syria and the Turkish city of Sanliurfa.

Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported that the rebels tore down Assad’s pictures to celebrate the capture, but an opposition activist in Raqa said that fighting was still raging as government troops tried to recapture the crossing.

Meanwhile, rebels withdrew from three southern districts of Damascus after weeks of heavy combat and shelling, while the army bombarded parts of the capital, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The bodies of 11 people were found in the Jobar district of Damascus, some of them belonging to people who had been detained by security forces, the Britain-based Observatory said, adding that nationwide at least 68 people were killed in violence on Wednesday, 50 of them civilians.

A network of activists, the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC), described the al-Hajar al-Aswad, Qadam and Assali districts, as well as the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, as “disaster areas.”