Al-Qaida-linked militants down Syrian warplane in central Hama province

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-27 04:13:23|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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DAMASCUS, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Levant Liberation Committee (LLC), known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, shot down a Syrian warplane on Tuesday in the northern countryside of Hama province in central Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

The warplane was downed while carrying out airstrikes on the positions of the LLC in the northern countryside of Hama, said SANA, adding that the pilot was killed.

This comes as intense battles are raging between the army and the LLC in the northern countryside of Hama and the adjacent southern countryside of Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

The army recaptured several positions in the southern countryside of Idlib on Tuesday, as part of the military operation launched from the government positions in northern Hama.

SANA said the wide-scale military offensives in Hama and Idlib have been dragging on for two months with the aim of defeating the LLC, in a triangle of countryside region between Hama, Idlib and Aleppo province in northern Syria.

One of the military goals behind the attack on Idlib is also to capture the Abu al-Duhur Air Base, which will enable the Syrian army to gain the upper hand in carrying out airstrikes on the LLC positions in Idlib.

Idlib has emerged as the main destination of the rebel groups, which have evacuated several positions across Syria after surrendering to the Syrian army.

The area has become a home to several rebel groups from different affiliations, some of which are supported by Turkey, while others, such as the Nusra Front, are designated as terrorist groups.

Still, the area was recently included in the de-escalation zones' deal, sponsored by Russian and Turkey, with Ankara being tasked with guaranteeing the situation there.

It's not clear yet whether the Syrian government forces will launch a wide-scale offensive to recapture the entire province, or just to take some positions in the countryside.