- Report: Jabhat al-Nusra Suicide Bomb & Rebels Inflict Heavy Losses on Regime near Aleppo
- Video: Syria Civil Defense Show Off Chlorine Canister from Latest Claimed Regime Attack
- State Media: 12 Civilians Killed by Rebel Rockets in Aleppo
- Damascus Website: 70 Killed by Islamic State in Northeastern Hama Province
- Rebel Offensive in Southern Syria, Attacking Busra al-Sham Near Jordan Border
Questions surround Sunday’s downing of a regime Mi-14 helicopter in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, over both the details of the incident and its significance.
Video showed the helicopter, designed for naval use, making an emergency landing near Deir Sunbul in the Jabal al-Zawiyah region (see map). It is unclear if the aircraft was suffering from a technical problem or was hit by rebel fire.
Initial reports said two pilots and five others on board were captured by rebels, with activists claiming a colonel and four lieutenant colonels among those taken. A pro-regime account listed the names of eight regime personnel.
A pro-Assad website claims that five of the troops were killed “during their ejection from the helicopter”, while three others were “summarily executed” and one is being held for ransom. The site says the most senior officer was a Lieutenant, while others were Sergeants.
Unconfirmed claims — spread by a British-based “monitoring group” as fact and published by Al Jazeera English — said one of the officers was killed by rebels; however, this appears to have been an exaggeration based on a photograph of one of the pilots injured in the crash. Video showed another wounded soldier being treated by opposition fighters.
Initial claims said the helicopter was moving with barrel bombs from Hama Military Airport to areas around Idlib city, such as Sarmin and Binnish. However, the operation was never confirmed — nor has it been explained why high-ranking personnel would be on-board for a bombing raid. Later claims said the helicopter had come from Latakia Province on the Mediterranean, which would fit the naval character of the aircraft.
Other observers noted that the Mi-14 has rarely been sighted in the Syrian conflict, although there is video of an Mi-14 over northwest Syria a few months ago. Speculation arose that the use of the aircraft indicates the shortage of “regular” helicopters now on hand for regime bombing and transport.
Video of the downed helicopter, with celebrating rebels and civilians:
Claimed footage of the emergency landing:
Treatment of one of the injured troops:
An image of an injured pilot with two Jabhat al-Nusra fighters:
Report: Jabhat al-Nusra Suicide Bomb & Rebels Inflict Heavy Losses on Regime near Aleppo
Reports are circulating that Jabhat al-Nusra carried out a vehicle-borne suicide bombing northeast of Aleppo on Monday:
— Thomas van Linge (@arabthomness) March 23, 2015
Sources confirm the claim and say rebel factions followed the bomb with a ground assault, inflicting heavy casualties on regime forces.
Rebels have been battling Syrian troops — as well as Hezbollah, Iranian, and Afghan fighters — in the area, repelling a regime offensive last month.
Video: Syria Civil Defense Show Off Chlorine Canister from Latest Claimed Regime Attack
Syria Civil Defense members show off a chlorine canister which they claim was dropped in a regime barrel bomb on Sarmin in Idlib Province in northwest Syria on Monday:
Last week regime helicopters dropped chlorine in four barrel bombs on Sarmin, killing six members of a family and wounding more than 100 other people.
State Media: 12 Civilians Killed by Rebel Rockets in Aleppo
State news agency SANA claims rebel rockets killed 12 people, most of them children, and injured 30 in the al-Jamiliyeh neighborhood and Baroun Street section of Aleppo on Monday.
Damascus Website: 70 Killed by Islamic State in Northeastern Hama Province
A Damascus-based website reports that 70 people were killed by the Islamic State amid fighting in northeastern Hama Province on Saturday.
The site says the deaths came in Sheikh Helal (see map) in the Salamiyah district. It claims public anger that official Syrian media have not acknowledged the incident.
Photographs on social media showed coffins carried by civilians and military personnel as hundreds marched.
Rebel Offensive in Southern Syria, Attacking Busra al-Sham Near Jordan Border
Rebels are attacking the city of Busra al-Sham in southern Syria, hoping to open access to Sweida Province and
another border entry point into Jordan.
Pro-Assad accounts say the city is defended by the Syrian Army’s 5th Armored Division and National Defense Forces militia, who have repelled the attacks and killed about 30 rebels, including two “field commanders”. Opposition activists claim high regime casualties.
Syrian militia amid clashes on the outskirts of Bakka village in southwest Sweida Province: