Downing of Syrian regime choppers in Idlib kill two pilots: monitor

12 civilians killed by regime airstrike on Syria's Idlib

Two Syrian military pilots were killed when the Turkish retaliatory offensives hit two of the Damascus fighter jets in the Idlib province where the regime troops are vigorously fighting to retake the rebels held  region. AFP repors citing monitor.

Syrian air force strikes on Idlib city in the heart of the country's last rebel pocket killed at least 12 civilians on Tuesday, a war monitor said.

Half of those killed in the strikes were minors, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

No civilian casualty has been reported  on the Turkish retaliatory offensives against the Russian and Syrian troops.

Turkey’s defense ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Syrian government forces were repel and are forced out of the town of Nairab in northwest Syria’s Idlib region and that one Syrian helicopter was shot down in the area as Turkey-backed opposition factions mounted an offensive.

Amidst the spiralling tensions in the region, a Syrian government helicopter was shot down by Turkish-backed rebel groups in western Syria's Idlib province

Video shows a Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter in flames somewhere near the town of Nairab, which was recently captured by government troops, before it breaks up and plummets from the sky.

The attack comes a day after five Turkish soldiers were killed in a government attack - prompting Ankara to retaliate with strikes on 115 government positions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised on Tuesday to reveal by Wednesday the steps to be taken after the flare up in the northwestern province of Idlib, the last opposition bastion in Syria.

The Turkish military said 101 of the targets had been destroyed, including three tanks, two mortar positions and one helicopter.

A second helicopter was downed Tuesday as rebels supported by Turkish artillery advanced towards Nairab to push back Russian-led forces, Abdulah al Shami, a commander in a coalition of mainstream rebel factions, said.

Two other rebel commanders confirmed anonymously that they had fired the missiles which took down the helicopter. 

Syrian Bashar al-Assad's forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, are attempting to seize control of Idlib, which is one of the last rebel-held strongholds in Syria.

But they are being pushed back by Turkish troops and proxy fighting groups that are trying to create a 'buffer zone' to stop refugees fleeing across the border.

The conflict is thought to have displaced 700,000 civilians since December according to UN report. Idlib province is home to some 3million people.

Though they are allies elsewhere in Syria, the conflict in Idlib has brought Russia and Turkey into conflict - with 13 Turkish troops killed in government attacks in a week.

The deaths prompted a Russian delegation to travel to Ankara at the weekend to try and find a solution, but they departed on Monday with no deal announced.

Shortly afterwards, government forces announced they had retaken a key highway.

The M5 motorway links the capital Damascus to the second city of Aleppo through the cities of Homs and Hama, and has been a key government target for years.

On Tuesday, government and allied forces retook the Rashideen al-Rabea area near Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

'That means they control the entire M5 for the first time since 2012,' Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based war monitor, told AFP.

The government's advance also helps secure Aleppo, the country's former industrial hub, which still comes under sporadic rocket fire from holdout rebel groups.

Turkey - both a NATO member and Russian ally - has found itself in a difficult position in Syria after taking over region security from the US in a hastily-brokered deal between Recep Tayipp Erdogan and Donald Trump.

In the north it is cooperating with the Syrian government and Russia in order to drive Kurdish fighting units - which previously allied with the US - away from its border.

But in Syria's west, Turkey has found itself fighting against Russia and the regime in order to stem the refugee crisis evolving there.

Turkey announced last week that it had sent 'major reinforcements' to the region to stem government attacks, adding: 'All options are on the table.'

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that all attacks on Russian and Syrian government forces in Idlib had to stop and that a Russo-Turkish deal on northeast Syria had to be implemented.

The war in Syria, which started with a popular movement against President Bashar al-Assad's rule that was brutally repressed, has killed more than 380,000 people in nine years and displaced around half of the country's population.

Russian military intervention in Syria has been the magic that has turn the tides in favour of the Damascus regime of al-Assad. 

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