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In an unverified video posted on the Internet Monday purporting to show the crash, flames appear around a falling helicopter, before it bursts into a fireball and plummets to the ground. Another video appeared to show wreckage, with the charred fuselage and a rotor resting in a residential alleyway.
The Al-Athar brigade, a rebel group, claimed responsibility, saying in a statement that the helicopter had been shot down "with the participation of other brigades."
Activist groups said that the helicopter had been used in a government assault on rebel fighters in Jobar, a patch of suburbs outside Damascus, the capital, that has been racked by periodic, heavy bouts of fighting since last year. After the helicopter went down on Monday, activists said that government forces had started shelling the area near the crash site.
Syria's restrictions on journalists make it impossible to confirm such reports.
As it fights an insurgency on several fronts, the Syrian government has become increasingly reliant on warplanes and helicopter gunships to extend its reach. Military analysts say the government may be struggling to keep aloft its fleet of Mi-25 Hind-D attack helicopters, given the scarcity of spare parts and the intensity of the fighting. The government did not identify the type of helicopter that crashed on Monday. Syria was believed to have about three dozen of the Mi-25 Hind-D helicopters before the start of the conflict.
The fighting on the eastern edges of Damascus came a day after residents in a southern suburb of the city held a mass burial for the victims in one of the deadliest episodes of the 17-month-old conflict. Witnesses and activist groups say attacks in the last week by government forces have left hundreds dead in the Damascus suburb of Daraya.
On the Syria border with Turkey, a backup of Syrians trying to flee their country appeared to be growing quickly, with nearly 10,000 massed on the Syrian side awaiting permission to cross, a Turkish government official reported. "There are people sleeping literally on the road sides," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Turkey has already taken in more than 80,000 Syrians who have registered with the United Nations refugee agency. Turkey has built nine camps to accommodate them and is scrambling to construct six more, while temporarily housing 19,000 Syrians in student hostels until the new camps are completed.