August 27, 2012

A Syrian helicopter engulfed in flames has crashed in eastern Damascus on Monday amid witness reports of shelling and fierce fighting in the area.

Syrian State television confirmed the helicopter came down near a mosque in the district of Al-Qabun, but gave no further information.

The video footage shows the helicopter ablaze after it was hit by a projectile during a burst of gunfire.

Syrian rebels claim to have shot down the chopper.

A Free Syrian Army brigade claimed it brought down the helicopter in revenge for the Daraya “massacre”, Al Arabiya news channel reported on Twitter.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 320 people were killed throughout five days of intense clashes in the small Sunni Muslim town Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, with many allegedly dying in house-to-house raids on Saturday. 

Officials have denied the “massacre” accusations. Syrian government newspaper Ath-Thawra reported on Sunday that the armed forces "cleared the town of Daraya of the remnants of armed terrorist groups, who committed crimes that traumatized the citizens of the town and destroyed public and private property."

Daraya has become the focal point of the government offensive to further drive rebels from the area, though fighting erupted on the outer edges of the capital as well.  

Meanwhile, some experts suggest that the “massacre” outcry can be an orchestrated PR event “designed to sneer the government in Damascus and prod the West into intervening in Syria,” as Middle East expert Kevin Barrett told RT.

He recalled that the UN Security Council is scheduled to hold ministerial meeting on the humanitarian impact of the Syrian conflict on August 30.

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