Anti-Assad fighters celebrate downing a regime jet in southern Idlib Province, August 14, 2019 (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP)
UPDATE, 0900 GMT:
Two medical staff and a rescuer were killed in a Russia-regime “double tap” attack on Wednesday.
An ambulance driver and a paramedic were slain by an airstrike on their facility in Ma’arat Humah in Idlib Province. Minutes later, as rescue workers arrived on the scene, a second strike killed a White Helmets volunteer.
— Ahmad (@Ahmad1618A) August 14, 2019
RIP Younis Balouz, a member of @SyriaCivilDef. Younis was killed in a double tap airstrike by a Russian plane, a common tactic of the regime & Russia’s to target rescue workers arriving at the site of a bombing. Since 26 April, the regime & Russia have killed eight White Helmets pic.twitter.com/F7EGnjDSGT
— The Syria Campaign (@TheSyriaCmpgn) August 14, 2019
In addition to the White Helmets fatalities, three medics of the Violet Organization were killed in a June 19 attack.
Two civilians were also killed and others wounded by shelling on the town center in Ma’arat al-Nu’man.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Advancing in their 3 1/2-month offensive in northwest Syria, Russia and Assad regime forces are closing on the “ghost town” of Khan Sheikhoun, destroyed and emptied by months of assaults.
The Russia-regime offensive began in late April and broke a demilitarized zone declared by Moscow and Turkey last September. It had been stalled for more than two months in its attempt to take the last major opposition area in Syria,
However, earlier this month incessant Russian bombing finally enabled a breakthrough in northwest Hama and southern Idlib Province, taking a key hilltop and towns on the way to the M5 highway between Homs and Aleppo.
The capture of Khan Sheikhoun would not only establish a position on the highway, but also cut off rebels and the Islamist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in northern Hama.
Khan Sheikhoun was the site of the April 2017 sarin attack by the Assad regime that killed about 90 people and injured hundreds. Even before the offensive, and despite the demilitarized zone, it was bombarded. The attacks spurred tens of thousands of people to leave, part of the more than 400,000 displaced by the Russia-regime assault.
On Wednesday, Russian bombing enabled Assad forces to take a series of villages west of Khan Sheikhoun, such as Harsh Abdeen, Umm Zeitouna, and Kafr Tab, according to Syrian State news agency SANA and pro-Assad sites.
Rebel sources said fighters pulled back to avoid being targeted by Russian warplanes in open areas. The sources said defenses east of Khan Sheikhoun were far stronger.
#Syria: map showing current situation as pro-Assad forces launched the battle to capture town of #KhanSheikhoun attacking from 2 fronts. Aim is to besiege entire N. #Hama countryside under Rebel control (& #TSK Obs. Post in #Morek). pic.twitter.com/FnPoxnqptf
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) August 14, 2019
Anti-Assad Forces Down Regime Jet
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham said its fighters downed a Russian made S-22 jet fighter that had taken off from a regime airbase in Homs Province.
State news agency SANA said the fate of the pilot was unknown; however, HTS later released footage of the captured pilot, named as Mohammad Ahmad Sleiman.
Footage shows downed #SyAAF pilot parachuting onto S. #Idlib, and trying to make a run for it while civilians are in pursuit.
'Look, he's escaping. Where are the rebels?'
'He might have a gun on him'
'Where's the motorbike? Let's get out of here, the area is going to be shelled' pic.twitter.com/Knc1sHhek5
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) August 14, 2019