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Syrian rebels shoot down military helicopter west of Aeppo

Local | 2020-02-14 20:24:00
Syrian rebels shoot down military helicopter west of Aeppo
(Zaman Al Wasl)- A regime helicopter was shot down and its crew killed Friday in Syria's northwest, such an escalation sparks Bashar al-Assad's fears as rebels have downed the second helicopter in three days in northwestern Syria.

Videos posted online show a helicopter spiraling downward from the sky, with flames trailing behind as onlookers cheer.

A military official told Syrian state media that the helicopter was hit by a “hostile rocket” in the western countryside of Aleppo . The unnamed official said the helicopter crashed and its crew was killed.

It was the second time this week that a regime helicopter was downed in northwest Syria. Another regime helicopter gunship was downed three days earlier, near the village of Nairab.

The Turkish-backed National Army units may have used surface-to-air missiles, a development that could alter the balance of power in the country’s north.

If confirmed, the use or supply of the missiles to target Syrian regime aircraft would mark a further escalation in the multifaceted war. The successful use of such weaponry may inhibit the Syrian regime’s ability to use attack helicopters on rebel-held towns and villages. Indeed, already in the days following the incident, some activists reported a drop in government air attacks in Idlib, according to the Independent. 

Meanwhile, the armed factions have launched major attack on regime forces, near al-Nayrab town killing 50 troops.

The Turkish National Defense Ministry said on Friday that a total of 63 Syrian  regime troops have been 'neutralized' in Idlib region.

Turkey on Thursday threatened to use force against “radicals” in Syria’s Idlib province after Russia accused Ankara of failing to “neutralise” jihadist groups under a 2018 deal.

“Force will be used in Idlib against those who do not abide by the ceasefire, including the radicals,” Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as saying by the official Anadolu news agency.

“Any form of measure will be taken,” he said.

Idlib – the last opposition bastion in Syria – is held by an array of rebels dominated by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, which is led by members of the country’s former al Qaeda franchise.

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have pressed ahead with an offensive in the region since December, killing more than 380 civilians, according to monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The killing of 14 Turks in Idlib in government shelling has fuelled tensions between Ankara and Damascus, while raising stakes with Russia – a key ally of Assad.

The Russia-backed regime offensive has displaced more than 800,000 people since December, the United Nations said on Thursday.

"Of the more than 800,000 people who have been displaced in northwest Syria from 1 December 2019 to 12 February 2020, some 60 percent are estimated to be children," said the United Nation's humanitarian coordination office, OCHA.

OCHA estimated that some 82,000 people are sleeping in the open air.

"Shelter is the most urgent need, as millions of people have been pushed into small areas not equipped to support that many people, especially during the cold winter," OCHA said.

It called the situation in Idlib "one of the worst" crises in the nine-year war.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 380,000 people since it erupted in 2011 following the brutal repression of popular demonstrations demanding regime change.

More than half of Syria's population had already been displaced, but the latest regime offensive against the country's last rebel enclave has sent the numbers soaring again.

OCHA said some 142,000 people were displaced between February 9-12 alone.

Aid organisations have called for a halt to the violence.

Zaman Al Wasl
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