Russian fighter jet 'SHOT DOWN by rebels in Sarqeb', pilot reported DEAD

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The Russian Ministry of Defense has released footage of a precision strike targeting terrorists in Idlib, north-west Syria, in retaliation for the earlier downing of an Su-25 jet and the killing of its pilot. "The pilot was able to report ejection from an area controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra militants [the terrorist group banned in Russia]", the defense ministry said, TASS reported.

The Defense Ministry revealed that according to preliminary information as to the possible cause of the downing, the plane may have been shot down by a man-portable air-defense system (MANPAD).

According to reports, the plane had taken off the Khmeimim air base in northern Syria and attacked near Idlib before being hit by a ground-to-air missile.

"The pilot died in a fight with terrorists", it said.

It happened in a rebel-held area near Idlib in the north of the country.

The regime has launched an offensive to retake Idlib, the only province that has come under full rebel control in the almost 7-year-old conflict.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Russian pilot was dead but had no immediate further details.

In recent weeks, Syrian government forces and their allies pushed into Idlib, an opposition stronghold, inching closer to a key highway that connects Syria's two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.

A video circulating on social media shows a lifeless body of a man, his face stained with blood, as bearded gunmen stand around him.

The army confirmed new gains on Saturday, saying it had seized a string of villages from al Qaeda fighters, state television said, quoting a military source. The UN said some 100,000 civilians have been displaced.

The military said Saturday's deaths were related to Turkey's operation against the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, codenamed Olive Branch.

In 2015, Russian Federation lost an Su-24 fighter bomber aircraft, after it being shot down by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet following a brief intrusion into Turkey.