Syrian rebels 'shoot down fighter jet'
State television says plane crashed in Deir Ezzor due to technical problems as fighting rages in Damascus and Aleppo. An Al Jazeera exclusive: Rebels fight to maintain control over a key supply route to Aleppo Syrian rebels claim that they have shot down a government warplane in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. "The rebels shot down the plane and captured its pilot," the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) activist network said on Monday.
The LCC posted videos on Youtube that they allege is of the jet being downed, and then another of the plane's pilot giving a statement. Al Jazeera cannot verify the content of the videos. 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.
Regime pilot being interrogated by FSA
State news agency SANA said the pilot had ejected from the plane before it crashed. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ammar Waqqaf, from the Syrian Social Club, a London-based group supporting President Bashar al-Assad, said the Syrian government remained "fairly stable". "We've seen today a loss of an air plane, whether for technical reasons or whether it was really shot down, we don't know," said Waqqaf.
"The army is pretty much in tact. They're carrying out operations against the insurgency." He dismissed a wave of recent defections as "some defections hat have been orchestrated, most probably, by some sort of covert intelligence operations".
On the outskirts of Damascus, the capital, shells struck rebel strongholds from before dawn on Monday. Activists said more than 45 people, including 36 civilians, had been killed in the past 48 hours in the area. Security forces reportedly arrested at least 21 people as they raided houses and shops in the centre of Damascus on Monday.
The Syrian Revolution General Council, a network of activists on the ground, said that armed forces had broken down the doors of shops that had closed in a show of defiance against the regime. Activists said the raid was the biggest operation of its kind in the city since the launch of the uprising against Assad's regime in March last year.
Rami Abdel Rahman, of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said: "This is not the first time there have been raids in central Damascus, but this is the first time something like this has happened on such a large scale." Security forces also swept into a graveyard "under the pretext of searching for weapons", he said.
The group also reported that several houses had been burned in Basateen al Mezzah, in the capital, and that there were additional clashes in the outskirts of Damascus outskirts, where armed rebels were able to destroy some heavy military vehicles. Fighting also raged in the city of Aleppo, with rebels seeking to establish a strategic foothold in the north.
Clashes were reported in the southwestern district of Salaheddin, from which rebels fled last week, but has seen continued clashes. Syrian troops were advancing on the southwestern rebel stronghold of Sukari, security sources said. Activists on Sunday said "communications of all forms" were cut in most of Aleppo city and its suburbs.