Syrian air defence chief killed in attack by rebels

Portraits for the Syrian President Bashar Assad are hung on the facade of the General Federation of Trade Union in Damascus, Syria, 18 May 2014. Photo: EFE / EPA
The chief of Syria\’s air defence forces, General Hussein Ishaq, has been killed in combat near Damascus, a security official has told news agencies.
The general died on Saturday of wounds suffered when rebels attacked Syrian air defence headquarters near the town of Mleiha, a key battleground southeast of the capital.
He is one of a handful of high-ranking military officers to be killed in the country\’s civil war.
Rebels are fighting to depose President Bashar al-Assad\’s regime in a bloody conflict that began three years ago.
Despite the war, the government plans to hold a presidential election next month in the areas under its control.
The director of the UK-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said Gen Ishaq\’s death was an "important psychological blow" to the regime.
The air defence forces\’ headquarters is in a fiercely contested area of the current fighting around Damascus, AFP news agency reports.
The rebels do not have an air force, the agency adds, so forces under Gen Ishaq\’s command have rarely been deployed for air defence.
For more than a month the Syrian army, backed by Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, has been fighting to force the rebels out of Mleiha.
The Observatory said that despite initial regime advances in Mleiha, the rebels have recovered ground, retaking several buildings around the central town hall.
The conflict has killed more than 150,000 people and displaced some nine million people.
Source: Agencies
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