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Rebel forces claim to have downed a Syrian fighter jet

A pilot ejected from a Syrian warplane after technical failure, state media said Monday, while rebels claim they shot down the aircraft.

The downing of a warplane would be a rare event for the lightly armed rebels who are faced with the superior weaponry of President Bashar Assad's forces.


Activists released a video on Monday purporting to show a government Soviet-made MiG catching fire after being hit from the ground over the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. The warplane appeared to spiral into a ball of flames.

Syrian rebels claim to have shot down a Syrian plane and captured the pilot, but the Assad regime has denied the shooting. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

It was impossible to independently verify the video.

In recent months the government has begun to use its air power to try to crush a 17-month-old uprising.

SANA news agency said that warplane was on a training mission, and added that a search is under way to find the pilot.

Rebels carve out large enclave in north Syria

"God is greatest! A MiG fighter jet has been hit in the town of Mohassen," an activist on the video shouted. There was no indication from the video that the jet had been hit by rebel gunfire or an anti-aircraft missile.

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People resisting the army of President Bashar Assad in northern Syria cope with loss and prepare for fighting.

An opposition source working with rebels in the area told Reuters the rebels used anti-aircraft guns to down the jet.

US, Turkey explore no-fly zones over Syria

In recent weeks, fighter jets have been seen firing rockets on rebel-held villages and the northern city of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, rebels, whose armory is made up mostly of assault rifles, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades, say they are unable to compete with the army's air power.

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Open to talks?
Elsewhere on Monday, Syria's ambassador to Tehran was quoted by Iranian media as saying that Assad’s government would welcome dialogue with opposition parties in order to bring an end to conflict

Most of the people living in the towns near Syria's largest city have fled, and those without money to leave were killed, rebels say. The Syrian troops have created a no-man's land, reportedly so that rebels can't re-supply the fighters inside. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

"The government … welcomes logical discussions with opposition parties in Syria," said Hamed Hassan, according to Iran's state news agency IRNA.

"The main condition is that these discussions take place under the supervision of the president,” Hassan was quoted as saying.

An estimated 20,000 people have been killed in the fighting in Syria.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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