Syria rebels shot down helicopter
An army helicopter was shot down in Syria following a fierce fighting in Damascus with rebels who claim responsibility for the attack on Monday.
The rebels say they shot down the helicopter to avenge the “massacre” of over 334 people, blamed on regime forces in the town of Daraya, of which 241 had been identified.
The aircraft reportedly where crashed near a mosque in eastern district of Qaboon.
Reports say activists also besieged the area with heavy shelling by combat helicopters and fierce fighting ensued between government troops and
Free Syrian Army rebels.
The body of a pilot has been found after the helicopter land-crashed.
"It was in revenge for the Daraya massacre," Omar al-Qabooni, a spokesman for the Free Syria Army - FSA's Badr battalion in Damascus said.
From about dawn, series of explosions rocked the city and the neighbouring district of Jubar, where anti-regime sentiment is strong.
The FSA also said it shot down a Syrian warplane on August 13 in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, but the claims cannot be independently confirmed.
Government troops launched an offensive last Tuesday in a bid to crush insurgents who have regrouped in the south-western outskirts of Damascus after the regime claimed to have retaken most of the capital late last month.
Syrian president Bashir al-Assad vowed on Sunday that he would not change course in the face of what he termed, a "conspiracy" by Western and regional powers against Syria, which has been witnessed 17 months of bloodshed.
"The Syrian people will not allow this conspiracy to achieve its objectives and will defeat it at any price,’’ Assad said at a meeting with a top official from Iran, Syria's chief regional ally.
‘Stick by our brothers’
At the meeting with Assad and Vice President Faruq al-Shara in Damascus, the head of the Iranian parliament's foreign policy committee, Aladin Borujerdi, vowed that Tehran will "stick by our Syrian brothers".
It was the first public appearance in over a month by Shara-the regime's top Sunni Muslim official-following opposition claims he had tried to defect and was under house arrest.
Crime against humanity
Human rights groups have accused the regime of committing many atrocities during the conflict. A United Nations panel said earlier this month it was guilty of crimes against humanity.
The Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground, said many victims had been summarily executed and their bodies burnt by pro-regime Shabiha militias that have been transformed into a "killing machine."
"Bodies were found in fields, basements and shelters and in the streets," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that many of the victims had died in shelling or were summarily executed.
Britain said that if confirmed, the Daraya massacre "would be an atrocity on a new scale."
The Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of sources on the ground, reported a total of at least 149 people killed nationwide on Sunday.
Iran is said to be a staunch ally of Assad's regime but is being excluded from most international efforts aimed at ending the conflict which has divided world powers, with the West supporting the rebels and Moscow and Beijing backing Damascus.
August has become the deadliest single month of the conflict, with at least 4,000 people killed, according to the Observatory, while around 25,000 have died since March 2011.
The United Nations puts the death toll at more than 17,000.