Syrian rebels shoot down govt warplane in northwest Aug 15, 2019 0 284 12345 REUTERSBEIRUTRebels shot down a Syrian warplane in the opposition stronghold of Idlib province on Wednesday as Russian-backed government forces closed in on a strategically important town, rebel sources and a war monitor said.A pilot who ejected from the plane was captured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reports on the war using a network of sources. Syrian state media made no initial mention of such an incident.The jihadist Tahrir al-Sham, the most powerful insurgent group in the area, said its fighters had shot down a Sukhoi 22 jet that had taken off from a Syrian air base in Homs province. The jet was downed near Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town that was hit by a sarin gas attack in 2017 and is now being targeted in a Russian-backed government offensive.Government forces seized new ground from rebels near Khan Sheikhoun on Wednesday, advancing to within a few km (miles) of the town. A rebel commander said that the town, in opposition hands since 2014, was in “great danger”.Dozens of people were killed in Khan Sheikhoun in 2017 that prompted President Trump to order a missile strike against the Syrian air base. from where the United States said it had been launched.An investigation conducted by the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said the Syrian government was responsible for releasing sarin on the town on April 4, 2017. Damascus denies using such weapons.Syrian rebels have shot down government planes on several occasions during the war that spiralled out of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.Tahrir al-Sham’s statement did not say how the plane had been shot down. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said heavy machine guns had been used.The northwestern Idlib region is part of the last major stronghold of the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.Assad’s side had struggled to make any gains in the area in an offensive that got under way in late April. But since the collapse of a brief ceasefire this month, it has managed to take several significant positions, including the town of al-Habeet on Saturday.The advance towards Khan Sheikhoun threatens to encircle the last remaining pocket of rebel-held territory in neighbouring Hama province, including the towns of Morek, Kafr Zeita and Latamneh.The humanitarian adviser to the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria said the new surge in violence in the northwest threatened the lives of millions after more than 500 civilians were killed since late April.Tahrir al-Sham is the latest incarnation of the group formerly known as the Nusra Front, which was al Qaeda’s official wing in the Syrian conflict until they parted ways in 2016.The group is designated as a terrorist organisation by the U.N. Security Council. (Writing by Tom Perry Editing by Mark Heinrich) RELATED ARTICLES Female suicide bomber kills six in Chad Aug 15, 2019 0 776 Somalia’s al Shabaab hits govt military base, deaths on both sides Aug 15, 2019 0 374 Leave our graffiti on the walls, say Sudan protesters Aug 15, 2019 0 726 Burundi starts vaccinating health workers against Ebola, says WHO Nairobi: The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that Burundi had begun vaccinating frontline workers against Ebola at its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an outbreak of the virus has .. Tunisia approves 26 candidates to run for president in Sept vote Tunis: Twenty-six candidates, including two women, have been approved to run in Tunisia’s early presidential elections slated for September 15, the country’s electoral commission announced on Wednesday. The 26 were .. Germany charges three Iraqis for planning Islamist attack Karlsruhe: Three Iraqis are to be charged with preparing an Islamist terrorist attack, German federal prosecutors announced on Wednesday. The three, all men, are to stand trial in Hamburg. They were detained in .. Iran’s Khamenei meets Yemen rebels after blow for Saudi coalition Tehran: Iran’s supreme leader has held talks with a senior Yemeni rebel official just days after the long-running intervention against the rebels by its regional foes Saudi Arabia and the UAE suffered a major setback. .. US urges release of reporter Tice, missing since 2012 in Syria Washington: The United States called on Wednesday for journalist Austin Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012, to be freed, reiterating the belief that he remains alive and is being held against his will. Seven years to .. Yemen govt rules out talks until separatists withdraw from Aden AFP Dubai Yemen’s government on Wednesday ruled out talks with southern separatists until they withdraw from positions they seized last week in second city Aden. The fighting saw forces that back the Southern ..