Mortars Kill Footballer at Damascus Stadium as Rebels Down Warplane
[An Nahar] A Syrian footballer was killed and four others maimed on Wednesday when two mortars smashed into a stadium in central Damascus
...Capital of the last remaining Baathist regime in the world...
, a sports official told Agence La Belle France Presse, as activists said rebels downed a warplane over a Damascus suburb.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity
... for fear of being murdered...
, named the dead footballer as Youssef Suleiman, aged 23, and said he played for the Homs-based al-Wathba team.
Four other footballers were maimed, 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 maimed 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 Hereditary President-for-Life Bashir
Lord of the Baath...
'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 gunnies 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 grabbed credit 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 maimed 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!
holy shit! 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 Bashir al-Assad have frequently used heavy machineguns to shoot down warplanes deployed to strike jihad boy enclaves across the country.
"The shelling and bombardment in Eastern Ghuta province on Wednesday was fierce," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence La Belle France Presse.
Elsewhere, troops fought rebels around several air bases and the international airport in the northern city of Aleppo, the Observatory said.
"The festivities 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.
Posted by: Fred 2013-02-21