(MEE) — Syrian rebels shot down a Russian plane over Syria’s northwest Idlib province on Saturday, a monitor said, and the pilot was killed.
The pilot, who ejected himself from the plane, appeared to have died upon impact, according to photos shared by pro-opposition activists. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights could not confirm which faction shot down the plane, but opposition groups including the hardline Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are active inside Idlib.
“Rebel factions shot down a Sukhoi 25. The Russian pilot came down in a parachute, before being captured,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
There was no immediate comment from the Russian or Syrian armies.
Syrian troops launched a fierce offensive on Idlib in late December, with backing by Russian warplanes.
On Friday, Syrian government warplanes launched multiple air strikes on rebel-held areas across Syria in a bid to take control from opposition forces.
Seven civilians were killed in the village of Telahdiya, inside the West Aleppo countryside, after Syrian government air strikes targeted a convoy of displaced refugees attempting to flee the violence.
“There have been dozens of Russian air strikes in the area over the past 24 hours. This plane was also carrying out raids there,” said Abdel Rahman.
Opposition factions have shot Syrian regime planes in the past, but downing Russian warplanes are much rarer.
In August 2016, a Russian military helicopter was shot down over Syria and all five people on board were killed.
Moscow began conducting air strikes in Syria in September 2015.
Two months later, Turkey shot down a Russian warplane, leading to the worst crisis in ties between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.
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