Syria state TV says plane crashed, pilot rescued
A general view shows damaged buildings in the Waer district in the central Syrian city of Homs, Syria September 19, 2016. REUTERS photoSyrian state TV said Sept. 21 that a military warplane had crashed and the pilot was rescued after carrying out a combat mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) northwest of the capital, Damascus.
State TV, quoting an unnamed military official, said the pilot had been rescued but it did not say what had caused the plane to crash in the Qalamoun mountains, an area that straddles the border with Lebanon.
The ISIL-affiliated news agency Aamaq said earlier that the group’s militants downed the plane in eastern Qalamoun after the aircraft carried out four raids against it. The agency said the plane crashed in an area controlled by either the government or rebel factions.
Earlier in the day, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a warplane had crashed northwest of Damascus, adding that the fate of the pilot remaining unclear.
It added that it was unclear if the warplane was downed or had technical problems.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels and pro-government forces battled each other on major frontlines near Aleppo and Hama, and air strikes reportedly killed a dozen people including four medical workers, as a cease-fire appeared to have completely unraveled.
The renewed battles demonstrated the thin prospects for reviving a truce that collapsed into fresh fighting and bombardments on Sept. 19, including an attack on an aid convoy which U.S. officials believe was carried out by Russian jets. Moscow denies involvement.
The U.N. Security Council met Sept. 21 for crisis talks on Syria, but earlier in the day Ben Rhodes, a White House spokesman, said that the U.S. held Russia responsible for the air strike.
“There only could have been two entities responsible, either the Syrian regime or the Russian government,” Rhodes, said.
“In any event, we hold the Russian government responsible for airstrikes in this space,” he added.
Two U.S. officials told Reuters on Sept. 20 that two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes were in the skies above the aid convoy at the time it was struck late on Sept. 19, citing U.S. intelligence that led them to conclude Russia was to blame.
Despite accusing Moscow of being behind the bombing of the aid convoy, the United States says the cease-fire agreement it sponsored jointly with Russia is “not dead.”
Overnight fighting was focused in areas that control access to Aleppo city, where the rebel-held east has been encircled by government forces, aided by Russian air power and Iran-backed militias, for all but a few weeks since July.
Syrian state media and a TV station controlled by its Lebanese ally Hezbollah said the army had recaptured a fertiliser factory in the Ramousah area to the southwest of the city. The Observatory confirmed the advance and said government forces had pressed forward near an apartment complex nearby.
A rebel fighter in the Aleppo area said warplanes had been bombing all night in preparation for an attack. But “the regime’s attempts to advance failed,” said the rebel, speaking to Reuters from the Aleppo area via the internet.
A Syrian military source said insurgent groups were mobilizing to the south and west of Aleppo, and in the northern Hama area. “We will certainly target all these gatherings and mobilizations they are conducting.”