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Assad Reportedly Regrets Syria Downing of Turkish Jet

  • VOA News

A Turkish newspaper has quoted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad saying he regrets that his forces shot down a Turkish military jet last month.

The Cumhuriyet newspaper published comments from Mr. Assad Tuesday in which the leader insisted the jet was flying in Syrian airspace that had been used by Israeli planes three times.

Turkey says the jet entered by mistake and had flown back to international airspace before Syria shot it down on June 22. The paper quoted Mr. Assad saying he would not hesitate to apologize for the attack if the Turkish account were true.

Some Turks say they want more than Assad's apology.

"I don't accept this, they shot the plane down deliberately. Our government must take serious precautions. They must not get away with this. With the help of God, we will retaliate,'' said Istanbul resident Atilla Bayram.

Turkey has increased its defenses along the border with Syria, a move Cumhuriyet quoted Mr. Assad as saying his country will not match.

Also Tuesday, Human Rights Watch issued a new report accusing the Syrian government of torturing and abusing detainees at 27 facilities across the country.

The group's UK director David Mepham says they conducted more than 200 interviews with victims.

"The kinds of torture that we are talking about are really appalling types of abuse. We've had people put in stress positions, we've had people who have been electrocuted, we've had people burned with acid, we've had people subject to sexual abuse -- terrible crimes have been committed," Mepham said.


The report lists torture sites in the capital, Damascus, as well as in Homs, Idlib, Aleppo, Daraa and Latakia.

Human Rights Watch says the ill-treatment amounts to crimes against humanity. It urged the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The head of the U.N. mission in Syria suspended operations on June 16 due to safety risks to the 300 observers there. The U.N. said attackers targeted the observer team several times with gunfire and bombs.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement late Monday that the Syrian people and the region "cannot afford more atrocities, suffering and chaos." He also welcomed an international plan for a transitional government in Syria and said he hoped an opposition conference in Cairo will contribute to creating a "meaningful transition."

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