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Syrian Helicopter Crashes In Damascus

Syrian Rebels Claim Downing Of Helicopter
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A Syrian military helicopter has crashed after it was apparently hit during fighting between government forces and rebels in the capital, Damascus.

Syrian state-run television acknowledged that a helicopter had crashed. It said it came down near a mosque in the district of Qaboon but gave no further details.

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which also reported the crash, said fighting between rebels and troops backed by helicopter gunships was taking place in the Damascus neighborhood of Joba.

Opposition fighters have claimed responsibility for downing the helicopter.

In another development, opposition activists are accusing government forces of carrying out a new massacre after troops seized the suburb of Daraya near Damascus from rebel control three days ago.

Opposition reports of the death toll have ranged from more than 300 to as many as 600.

Video footage posted by activists showed rows of corpses, many of them men with gunshot wounds to their heads. During mass burials on August 26, bodies were sprayed with water from hoses -- a substitute for the ritual washing prescribed by Islam in the face of so many dead.

The video footage and death toll were impossible to independently verify because of severe restrictions on nongovernmental media coverage of the conflict.

Activists and residents have recently reported an aggressive use of force by the regime, with indiscriminate bombing from the air and ground, in a bid to quash rebel forces.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quoted by official media as vowing that his regime would carry on fighting "whatever the price."

Assad said that what he called a foreign "conspiracy" against Syria would be defeated.

During a meeting in Damascus with a top official from Iran, Syria's chief regional ally, Assad said that the Syrian people will not allow "this conspiracy to achieve its objectives."

Rights activists say at least 20,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. International officials have said that some 200,000 Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries, while 2.5 million are in need inside the country.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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