Turkish-backed rebels shoot down another Syrian gov’t helicopter: report

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Turkish-backed Syrian rebels shot down a government helicopter west of Aleppo in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region, where violence and displacement have spiked in recent weeks, Turkish and Syrian state media said on Friday.

A rebel military source and eyewitnesses told Reuters Russian jets had been targeting areas in the countryside west of Aleppo earlier on Friday, but they turned back to the city after the helicopter was downed.

Another Syrian government helicopter was shot down on Tuesday by the rebels.

“One of our military helicopters was hit by an enemy missile in the western countryside of Aleppo … where armed terrorist 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.

Turkey’s military has sent additional arms and troops to Idlib, on its southern border, to confront a push by Russia-backed Syrian government forces to retake the country’s last major rebel stronghold after nearly nine years of war.

The Syrian Observatory war monitor said on Friday that Turkey had deployed around 6,500 soldiers to reinforce existing units in northwest Syria as well as some 1,900 military vehicles since early February.

The helicopter was struck as it flew over the front lines after leaving Aleppo, which is controlled by the government, the Turkish state-owned Anadolu news agency said. Rebels downed another government helicopter on Tuesday near the town of Nairab, to the south.

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