Conflict & Justice

Syria footballer killed in mortar attack on Damascus stadium


Rebel fighters inspect the debris in a street in the Bustan al-Basha district in the northern city of Aleppo on January 1, 2013. Syrians woke up to air strikes near Damascus on New Year's Day and the closure of Aleppo airport after repeated rebel attacks, casting doubts on efforts to end the 21-month conflict.



A Syrian footballer was killed and three others were injured when two mortars hit a stadium in Damascus on Wednesday.

The deceased athlete was identified by teammates as Youssef Suleiman, father of a 6-month-old baby.

"We were collecting our things about to head to the stadium when we heard the first explosion and the windows were blown off," said Ali Ghosn, a 20-year-old player told The Associated Press in Damascus. "Youssef was hit in the neck. We ran out to the corridor when the second explosion struck and I saw Youssef fall down bleeding from his neck.

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Wednesday's attack was the second involving mortars in the past two days.

Two mortars exploded near one of President Bashar al-Assad's palaces on Tuesday, with no injuries reported. It was the first attack that came close to a presidential palace, a sign that the civil war is starting to reach areas previously thought of as safe. Youtube video posted by rebel fighters shows the men aiming and firing the mortars with cries of "Allah Akbar," declaring their intentions to directly target Bashar.

The Syrian Observatory also said Syrian rebels shot down a regime warplane after an airstrike killed at least nine people in the Damascus town of Hammuriyeh on Wednesday.

AFP said amateur video shot by activists showed a warplane firing from the sky and then going down in flames.

"It's gone up in flames! Allahu Akbar! The [rebel] Free Syrian Army air defense battalions have hit a MiG warplane!" the cameraman shooting the video was heard saying.

Fighting has been taking palce in and around Damascus for months. More than 50 people were killed in Damascus suburbs on Tuesday and at least 31 were killed on the same day in an army rocket attack on Aleppo.

The News Tribe noted that about 70,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it began in March 2011.