Rebels claim 30 dead in Syrian bombing

Sept. 20, 2012 at 12:47 PM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Syrian opposition leaders say 30 were killed and 100 more hurt when government planes bombed a crowded gas station.

If confirmed, it would be the single largest casualty count in a government airstrike since the armed conflict between President Bashar Assad and rebel forces seeking his ouster began last March.

The airstrike took place in the village of Ayn Issa, a border town on Syria's northern border with Turkey, The New York Times reported. Ayn Issa is close to a key Turkish border crossing post that rebels seized two days ago.

A military helicopter crashed near the Syrian capital of Damascus Thursday, with rebel forces claiming they downed the aircraft.

Opposition group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was told that rebel fire brought down the helicopter, but that information hasn't been confirmed, the Times reported.

Syrian state-run media said the helicopter crashed. There was no immediate report of casualties.

Fighting was fierce across Syria Thursday, with the Syrian government saying it killed more than 100 foreign fighters, CNN reported.

At least six people were killed in fighting Thursday, four in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, the opposition group Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

Syria's state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported government troops killed more than 100 fighters it said were Afghans stationed in a school in Aleppo. SANA didn't provide details about how the fighters were killed or how the forces knew they were Afghans.

The opposition's Shaam News Network said one of its reporters was among four men killed in Hama Wednesday when regime forces torched a house. Shaam said Adbelkareen Al'uqda was credited with posting more than 1,250 videos to YouTube depicting the violence between government forces and rebels during the conflict that began in March 2011.

Reports of violence cannot be independently confirmed because the Syrian government severely limits the access of international journalists.

In Washington, during the Senate confirmation of Robert Beecroft as ambassador to Iraq, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said reports that Iran is using Iraqi airspace to ship arms to Syria were troubling.

Iraq has denied allegations that it let Iran deliver weapons to Syria and Iran has denied sending weapons to Assad's forces. Shiite-dominated Iran is allied with Syria's Alawite minority-controlled government. Assad belongs to the Alawite faction of Shiite Islam.

"It's not surprising that Iraq seeks neighborly relations with Iran. But the reports of Iran using Iraqi airspace to resupply Assad's ruthless regime are troubling," Kerry said during the hearing.

"Just this week, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps acknowledged that Iran is providing assistance and training to groups inside Syria, begging the question of how else Iranian materiel might get into Syria," Kerry said. "This is a problem, and it will only grow worse if not addressed."

Kerry said Iraq could not expect to receive U.S. aid while allowing Iran to send weapons used to kill people in Syria.

Meanwhile, Turkish military leaders said they completed their investigation into Syria's downing of a Turkish warplane in June, determining it occurred in international airspace over the Mediterranean. Syria has said the plane was shot down because it violated Syrian airspace. The two-man crew in the aircraft died.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus Wednesday to brief him on a regional initiative by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran to end the fighting, Syria's state news agency said. The plan does not call for Assad to vacate his office, a key demand of the rebels.

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