Syria air force General killed as airstrikes pound rebels

Syria air force General killed as airstrikes pound rebels

Syria air force General killed as airstrikes pound rebels

Free Syrian Army fighters and residents are seen near a building damaged after a Syrian Air Force jet loyal to President Bashar al-Assad fires missiles at Marat al-Numan near the northern province of Idlib. REUTERS photo

A Syrian air force general has been assassinated in Damascus, state television said yesterday, as air strikes pounded rebel bastions and fighting raged for control of areas around the capital and in the northwest.

“As part of their campaign to target national personalities and scientists, armed terrorist groups assassinated Air Force General Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi in the Damascus district of Rukn al-Din,” state television said, using the regime term for armed rebels. The general was a member of the Syrian Air Force command, a security source in Damascus told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity. He was shot dead on Oct. 29 as he left a friend’s home, the source added.

News of the killing came after regime warplanes launched their heaviest air strikes to date, with more than 60 raids carried out on Oct. 29, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a key watchdog.

It said the campaign continued yesterday with air raids hitting rebel-held areas in the suburbs of Damascus and the town of Maaret al-Numan, overrun by rebels earlier this month.

It said three children were among four civilians killed in Maaret al-Numan, which is on a key army supply route between Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo. Regime forces have been battling with rebels for weeks for control of the area.

Fight for key town
Rebels have been fighting army bases in al-Hamdanitya and Wadi al-Deif, on the outskirts of Maarat al-Numan. Some activists said 28 civilians had been killed in the latest air raids on Maarat al-Numan, Reuters reported. Maarat al-Numan and other Sunni towns in northwestern Idlib province are mostly hostile to al-Assad’s ruling system, dominated by his minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.

Warplanes again bombed eastern suburbs of Damascus and the outskirts of the central city of Homs. The army fired heavy barrages of mortar bombs into the district of Hammouria, killing at least eight people, activists said.

Two rebels were killed and 10 wounded at al-Mubarkiyeh, a village 6 km south of Homs, where rebels have besieged a compound guarding a tank maintenance facility, activists said. Opposition sources said the facility had been used to shell Sunni villages near the Lebanese border.

 “The warplanes hit al-Mubarkiyeh five times this morning. Army bulldozers had already razed the village in March,” said activist Nader al-Husseini by telephone from near the area.

With U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi due in China in a bid to revive struggling peace efforts, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said the international community’s failure to halt the fighting was making it complicit in the violence. “What is happening in Syria is not a civil war but a war of extermination against the Syrian people,” he told Al-Jazeera television.

The war, he charged, was being waged “with a licence to kill, endorsed firstly by the Syrian government and secondly by the international community.”

Yesterday also saw clashes between rebel forces and troops backed by Palestinian fighters at the Yarmuk Palestinian camp, home to 148,500 people, near Damascus. Anwar Raja, spokesman for the pro-regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, said its forces clashed with rebels trying to infiltrate the camp but that there were no casualties. At least 25 people, including 16 civilians, were killed in fighting yesterday, the Observatory said.