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04 February 2018, 01:07 | Katrina Lee
UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland
The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed one of its Su-25 warplanes was downed in Idlib province in northwest Syria, state media outlet RIA Novosti reported.
Although the Russian pilot escaped the crash, he was killed by rebels who had tried to capture him, the source said.
Syrian soldiers and Iranian-backed militiamen were now around 12 kilometres from Saraqeb, advancing towards the Damascus-Aleppo highway under cover of heavy Russian air strikes, two opposition sources said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but hardline opposition groups and the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) are active in Idlib.
Since then, Syrian government forces have captured wide parts of the country and in recent weeks have been marching in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib.
The ministry said more than 30 militants in the area were killed in a retaliatory strike, according to RIA Novosti, citing "radio intercepts".
Russian Federation has been conducting military operations in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since September 2015.
Militants shot down the plane in an area controlled by al-Nusra Front fighters, according to the RIA Novosti report. The province is also a base for al-Qaida's branch in Syria and other Islamic groups.
The observatory earlier reported more than 35 airstrikes on Saraqeb since late Friday and said that many residents were fleeing the area. There was no immediate comment from the Russian or Syrian armies.
The UN said more than 270,000 people had been displaced in Idlib since mid-December as a result of the government's offensive.
A total of 13 Turkish soldiers and at least 24 allied Syrian opposition fighters have died so far in Ankara's offensive, which started on January 20. Moscow has confirmed a Russian military jet has been downed.
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