Mortars Kill Footballer at Damascus Stadium as Rebels Down Warplane

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  • W460
  • W460
  • W460

A Syrian footballer was killed and four others wounded on Wednesday when two mortars smashed into a stadium in central Damascus, a sports official told Agence France Presse, as activists said rebels downed a warplane over a Damascus suburb.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, named the dead footballer as Youssef Suleiman, aged 23, and said he played for the Homs-based al-Wathba team.

Four other footballers were injured, he said, adding that they played for al-Nawair team, from the central city of Hama.

Al-Wathba was training for a match in Damascus against al-Nawair, said the official.

Suleiman, a striker, was killed and the others were injured when they were hit by shrapnel from the mortars that landed outside their rooms, the official said.

State news agency SANA blamed "terrorists", the regime's term for rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's regime, for the strikes.

Suleiman, like his team, was from the central city of Homs, which has been ravaged by violence since early on in Syria's conflict nearly two years ago.

Professional Syrian sports players have not been spared in the country's raging violence.

Last month, unidentified gunmen killed the country's race-walking team's official coach, a silver medalist in the West Asia cup.

Because of the violence that has left some 70,000 people dead since March 2011, some 60 of Syria's top footballers have moved to teams in neighboring countries.

Syria's football championship has not been interrupted, but al-Futwa, one of the 16 participating teams, could not take part this year due to the precarious security situation in the city of Deir Ezzor, in eastern Syria.

Championship teams are divided into two groups, taking turns at playing each other. The final stage will see face-offs between the four top teams.

On Tuesday, rebels claimed responsibility for launching mortar rounds at one of Assad's palaces in Damascus.

Later on Wednesday, rebels downed a warplane over the Damascus provincial town of Hammuriyeh, shortly after an air strike killed at least nine people and wounded dozens more there, a watchdog and activists said.

Amateur video shot by activists and distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed a warplane firing from the sky and then going down in flames after apparently being hit.

"It's gone up in flames! Allahu akbar (God is greatest)! The (rebel) Free Syrian Army air defense battalions have hit a MiG warplane!" cried the amateur cameraman shooting the video.

Lacking sophisticated weaponry, rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad have frequently used heavy machineguns to shoot down warplanes deployed to strike insurgent enclaves across the country.

"The shelling and bombardment in Eastern Ghuta province on Wednesday was fierce," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France Presse.

Elsewhere, troops fought rebels around several air bases and the international airport in the northern city of Aleppo, the Observatory said.

"The clashes around Kwayris military airport were fierce today, and there were also intermittent battles around Aleppo international airport and Nayrab military air base," Abdel Rahman said.

Rebels launched an assault last week to seize several air bases and the Aleppo airport, in a bid to stop warplanes from taking off and to seize ammunition.

In the past week, rebels have captured air bases at al-Jarrah, Hassel and Base 80, as well as an important checkpoint near the international airport.

Wednesday's violence came a day after some 100 people were killed across Syria, according to the Observatory.

Comments 9
Missing gabby14 20 February 2013, 16:44

Why are they playing soccer at a time like this?

Missing rafehh 20 February 2013, 18:59

It is very unfortunate and any indescriminate bombing (if it was true the case as SANA is hardly reliable) should be condemned. According to every human rights organizations, the number of those killed by the rebels pale in comparison to those killed by the regime. The regime is responsible for the overwhelming majority of destruction to the cities and villages in syria they they had till recently a monopoly on the use of heavy and median arms. Even today, the heavy weapon arsonal owned by the FSA is very small. It is why when you look at areas that are controlled or recently controlled by FSA, they are devestated by heavy weapons. Those that has been always controlled by regime (except front line) are intact.

Missing rafehh 20 February 2013, 19:48

Mowaten -UN human rights commission, amnesty international, human rights watch, avaaz, reporters on field, activist videos. In addition, the observatory reports have been largely credible - considering the difficulty on the ground. Who do you rely on mowaten as your sources of information?

Missing rafehh 20 February 2013, 22:23

Mowaten - I referred to credible international organizations as well as reporters and activists on the ground. After a while, the amount of evidence become overwhelming not to make the conclusions I stated. You did not tell me what are your sources? SANA? Al-Manar? Al-Jadeed? If Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are not credible, who is credible in your eyes? or is it simply you decided which side you are on and adjusted your world view around that?

Missing peace 21 February 2013, 14:13

funny but mowaten always refer to london oservatory when it suits him.....

Default-user-icon Murad (Guest) 20 February 2013, 17:54

Soccer is against Islam. All life should stop to please the terrorists fighting for the freedom to kill.

Default-user-icon Sae Kubo in Tokyo (Guest) 21 February 2013, 07:53

As the presidential Palace was attacked and about 34 dead and wounded on Tuesday, when i saw the article of naharnet to introduce one child rescued under debiris after such attack caused huge devastation on the area, it fazed me again. but sentiment of mine thomp to read a child explained "miracle!". Writing such a miracle on a newspaper under such escalating civilwar is so kind hearted ! But I hope the end of the war, perhaps quite different from many others to support even the rebels. i actually don't like the western support and the US to arm the rebels and FSA who still fight in mixed up manner with al-Queda as well as some extremists groups.

Thumb cedar 21 February 2013, 08:54

What a load of crap, they didn't shoot down the plane... it was performing a dump and burn (which creates fire behind it) when the pilot pushes maximum throttle and dumps petrol directly, to make the plane lighter and faster.

Missing ssnp4ever 21 February 2013, 10:52

Rest in peace brother..