Warplane attack kill 60 in Damascus

Syrian fighter planes killed at least 60 people while a military helicopter crashed under rebel fire.

An image grab that was taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on August 27, 2012 showing a burning Syrian combat helicopter crashing. Picture: AFP

ALEPPO - Syrian fighter planes made rare sorties on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, killing at least 60 people in its eastern suburbs, the same day a Syrian military helicopter crashed while under rebel fire, activists said.

They said aerial attacks by at least two fighter planes late on Monday had targeted the neighbourhood of Zemalka and the more easterly suburb of Saqba where Free Syrian Army fighters had attacked and overrun several army roadblocks earlier in the day.

Both suburbs are poor and inhabited predominantly by Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority of Syria's population and have been at the forefront of fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.

Video footage seen by a Reuters reporter of the aftermath of an attack by one of the planes firing rockets at an apartment building showed people running away with their children and the six-storey building collapsed like an accordion.

Syrian authorities have banned entry to most foreign media, making it impossible to verify accounts by activists and residents of activity in the capital.

The focus of the 17-month struggle appears to have returned to the outskirts of the capital after weeks of battles centred on the northern city of Aleppo.

Opposition activists said earlier at least 62 people had been killed in an assault on suburbs of Damascus on Monday, some summarily executed, a day after they accused Assad's troops and sectarian militia of massacring hundreds of people in the neighbouring town of Daraya.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Daraya killings as "an appalling and brutal crime" that should be independently investigated immediately.

Egypt's new Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, preparing to make his debut on the stage of world diplomacy, called on Monday for Assad's allies to help lever the Syrian leader out of power.

"Now is the time to stop this bloodshed and for the Syrian people to regain their full rights and for this regime that kills its people to disappear from the scene," Mursi told Reuters in his first interview with an international news organisation before embarking on a trip to China and Iran.

"There is no room to talk about reform, but the discussion is about change," Mursi said.