IDLIB – Turkish rebels shot down a Syrian Army Mi-17 military helicopter in northern Syria on Tuesday, killing its crew members in a fiery crash.
The violence in Idlib province came as government troops moved closer to capturing the last rebel-controlled section of a strategic highway linking southern and northern Syria, which would bring the road under the full control of President Bashar Assad’s forces for the first time since 2012.
With support from Russia and Iran, Syrian troops have been on the offensive for weeks in Idlib and parts of nearby Aleppo provinces, unleashing a humanitarian crisis with 700,000 people fleeing their homes and surging north toward the Turkish border.
Nearly a quarter of the 3 million people in Idlib and nearby areas have fled. Hundreds of civilians have died in the latest fighting, according to the United Nations.
The Syrian helicopter gunship was shot down by insurgents amid fighting near the village of Al-Nayrab as rebels, backed by Turkish artillery, tried to retake it after losing it last week, according to opposition activists.
Footage showed the helicopter spiraling from the sky and breaking up as fire poured from its fuselage, just before it crashed. Two bodies could be seen on the ground.
Turkish reports say that the pilot and two others aboard were killed, while opposition activists reported that only two crew members were on board.