Syria launches air strikes as combat rages in Damascus
By Oliver Holmes and Erika Solomon
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian war planes attacked towns in the country's north and east and killed at least five civilians in a strike on an olive oil press as fighting raged in the capital Damascus on Tuesday, opposition activists said.
The latest fighting follows recent battlefield gains by the rebels in their struggle to topple President Bashar al-Assad, but it is far from clear if a strategic breakthrough is likely.
More than 90 people were killed on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group.
Rebels trying to make inroads into the capital battled government forces in the suburb of Kfar Souseh on the edge of the centre of the capital, activists said.
In Aleppo province in the north, rebels shot down a military helicopter, according to video footage posted on YouTube that showed what appeared to be a missile hitting the aircraft.
Security sources and activists have reported a small but growing number of heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles entering Syria, weapons the rebels would need to stand any chance of overcoming Assad's increasing reliance on air power.
The video could be one of the first clear indications that such weapons are in use. The Local Coordinating Committee opposition group said the Free Syrian Army had downed the helicopter near the Sheikh Suleiman army base, 30 km (20 miles) northwest of the contested city of Aleppo.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the uprising, activists said. What began as a series of peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule in March last year grew into a bitter civil war with sectarian overtones. Continued...