Russian Fighter Jet Shot Down in Rebel-Held Syria and Pilot Captured

Rebel fighters in Syria have shot down a Russian plane using a handheld anti-aircraft missile and killed its pilot when he open fire on them while trying to resist capture.

He could not immediately confirm which faction had shot down the warplane but hardline opposition factions and the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) are active in the area.

It happened in a rebel-held area near Idlib in the north of the country.

Russian Federation is a key ally of President Bashar Assad, and has been waging a military campaign on behalf of his forces since 2015.

The Syrian opposition released footage on social media that purported to show the wreckage of the plane and the body of the pilot surrounded by fighters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Russian pilot was dead but had no further details.

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The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed. The province is one of the last rebel-held bastions in Syria.

A source in the Syrian Army also confirmed to Sputnik that elite assault units of the army have liberated multiple villages, all of which are located to the south-west of the previously liberated airbase Abu al-Duhur.

Syrian government troops launched a major offensive around Idlib in late December, backed by Russian jets.

In recent weeks, Syrian government forces and their allies pushed into Idlib, an opposition stronghold, inching closer to a key highway that connects Syria's two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.

According to Jan Egeland, who heads the U.N.'s task force on humanitarian aid for Syria, nearly a quarter of a million people have been displaced into or from Idlib since the latest onslaught began less than two months ago.

It is not clear which group was responsible for downing the fighter jet.

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  • Megan Austin