Rebels say downed jet, Damascus denies

Rebels say downed jet, Damascus denies

Rebels say downed jet, Damascus denies

Demonstrators show a model of a MiG-21 jet during a protest against regime. REUTERS photo

Rebels in eastern Syria claimed they downed a government fighter jet yesterday, but state television said the plane crashed due to technical difficulties.

The state news channel Syria TV said the plane crashed due to technical problems during a “regular training mission” and a search party was under way. State news agency SANA said the pilot had ejected from the plane before it crashed, Reuters reported.

Anti-Assad activists uploaded videos on YouTube, said to be from the town of Mohassen in Syria’s eastern province of Deir ez-Zor and showing a warplane streak through the skies amid heavy gunfire. The jet suddenly erupts into flames and begins to swirl, leaving a trail of smoke. An opposition source working with rebels in the area told the insurgents used anti-aircraft guns to down the jet. “It was a Mig-21 brought down by a 14.5 anti-aircraft gun, the biggest in the rebel arsenal.

UN envoy defected

Meanwhile, a Syrian diplomat named Danny al-Baaj, working at the U.N. in Geneva has joined his country’s opposition after deciding he can no longer represent President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, according to the Associated Press. Al-Baaj’s family said he decided several days ago he could no longer represent al-Assad.