Militants in Idlib down Syrian military helicopter
Syrian state media says all crew members of downed military helicopter killed as Syrian government forces advance on the militant-held region in the northwest of Syria.
“One of our military helicopters was hit by an enemy missile in the western countryside of Aleppo...where armed militant organizations supported by Turkey are deployed, and this led to the fall of the helicopter and death of its crew,” Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying.
It was the second time this week that a government helicopter was downed in north-west Syria. Another government helicopter gunship was downed three days earlier, near the village of Nairab.
Ankara acknowledged the incident in a statement but did not claim responsibility. Opposition factions downed another regime helicopter on Tuesday near the town of Nairab, to the south.
Turkey sent thousands of troops and heavy weaponry across its border into Idlib in the past two weeks, saying it was strengthening its position to confront a push by Syrian government forces to retake the country’s last major militant-held stronghold.
Syrian Army has reclaimed significant territory since launching a stepped-up offensive in December, including areas around some of the Turkish military posts in Idlib.
Turkey first sent troops to Syria in 2016 and has sent reinforcements to the northwest in recent weeks to contain the assault.
That has led to a series of confrontations, including deadly clashes this week that saw government shelling kill five Turkish troops.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened the Syrian government in recent days, saying the offensive violates a 2018 deal with Russia meant to prevent a broad military operation.