Syrian opposition fighters on Monday claimed they downed a government fighter jet, but state television said the plane crashed due to technical difficulties.
The downing of a warplane would be a rare event for lightly armed rebels faced with the superior weaponry of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
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.
An amateur video posted on YouTube by activists and marked with a logo reading: “The revolutionary youth from the land of the Euphrates,” shows a fighter jet apparently being hit, after the sound of heavy fire is heard.
A ball of fire erupts from the plane, followed by a trail of smoke. The jet continues to fly, as it appears the plane has been hit in the tail.
“Allahu Akbar! (God is greatest),” cries an unidentified man. “A MiG plane has been hit in the town of Muhasen,” in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
If confirmed, it would be the first time that the rebels have succeeded in downing a Syrian plane and suggests they have probably acquired ground-to-air missiles.
In recent months the government has begun to use its air power to try to crush a 17-month-old uprising.
The regime army advanced on Monday into a new rebel-held area of the country’s second city Aleppo, days after it seized control of the neighboring district of Salaheddin, a monitoring group said.
“With tanks, Syria’s regime forces have stormed the west of the district of Saif al-Dawla,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “They are now clashing with the rebels, and parts of Salaheddin are being shelled.”
The bloody violence continues as U.N humanitarian chief Valerie Amos plans to go to Syria on Tuesday to discuss ways of increasing emergency aid to civilians.
During her three-day trip, Amos will also visit Lebanon to meet Syrian families who have fled the violence and hold talks on providing support to the growing number of refugees, a U.N. statement said.
The humanitarian situation in Syria has worsened in recent weeks as fighting spread to Damascus and Aleppo. “Two million people are now estimated to have been affected by the crisis and over one million have been internally displaced,” it said.
Amos’ schedule of meetings was not released, but the statement said that she would meet Syrian authorities, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other aid agencies.