Syrian opposition fighters gather around the burning remains of a downed military helicopter. (AFP)
CAIRO – 12 February 2020: In a new violation and utter disregard for international norms and laws, a Syrian military helicopter was shot down as Ankara warned of a "heavy price" for any attacks on its forces.
According to AFP, the new flare-up, a day after regime shelling killed five Turkish troops, came as government forces battling rebels in northwestern Syria took full control of a key highway linking the country's four largest cities.
The advance marked another step in President Bashar al-Assad's campaign to retake Syria's last rebel-held pocket, where nearly 700,000 civilians have fled violence since December in the largest exodus since the start of the war.
Shortly after the M5 motorway was recaptured, a rocket attack downed a Syrian regime helicopter in Idlib province, killing both pilots, an AFP correspondent and a war monitor said.
Syrian state news agency SANA confirmed the downing of the aircraft and the killing of its crew, saying it was caused by a rocket fired from a part of Idlib where Turkey-backed rebels operate.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the helicopter was hit by a rocket fired by Turkish forces.