Rebels say they shoot down Syrian military jet, army confirms crash
BEIRUTThe Syrian military said on Aug. 15 that one of its jets crashed in southern Syria, state television reported, hours after rebels said they had shot it down and captured the pilot.
State-owned Ikhbariya television quoted a Syrian army source as saying an investigation was under way to determine what caused the crash. It did not mention the fate of the pilot.
Rebels released photos of a pilot they identified as Major Ali al Hilwa, with bruises on his face, and the wreckage of a jet they said was a Russian-built MiG brought down by anti-aircraft guns.
The Ahmad al-Abdo Forces shot down the jet near Wadi Mahmud in Sweida, the group’s communications head Fares al-Munjed told AFP.
“The pilot is in our hands. He is injured and being treated,” Munjed said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a British-based monitor, confirmed the rebel faction had shot down the plane and captured its wounded pilot.
According to Munjed, the area where the aircraft was downed is outside a ceasefire zone negotiated last month by the United States, Russia and Jordan.
Parts of Daraa, Quneitra, and Sweida provinces are included in the agreement, which has brought relative quiet to the zone though some violence has been reported.
Days after the deal went into effect, the Ahmad al-Abdo Forces hit a Syrian government jet but it landed safely in regime-controlled territory.
Munjed said his group had used a "23 millimetre anti-aircraft gun" to down the warplane on Aug. 15.
“We will take care to treat the captured pilot in accordance with international law," he told AFP.
The rebel group's leadership was still debating what would happen to the pilot after his treatment, he said.
Also on Aug. 15, rebel rocket fire killed five civilians in Syria’s Aleppo, a monitor said, in the deadliest bombardment on the northern city in months.
The rockets rained down on several districts in Syria’s second city, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the SOHR.
“Five civilians were killed and at least 10 others were wounded,” Abdel Rahman told AFP.
“It’s the highest toll we have documented in several months,” he said.
The Britain-based Observatory said the rockets came from the western outskirts of Aleppo, where rebel groups are still entrenched.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Foreign Ministry has accused the U.S. and the Britain of supplying toxic agents to rebels.
“The special equipment found consisted of hand grenades and rounds for grenade launchers equipped with CS and CN toxic agents […] The chemical munitions were produced by the Federal Laboratories company in the U.S. The toxic agents were produced by Cherming Defence UK and NonLethal Technologies,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minsiter Faisal Mekdad said on Aug. 16.
According to the deputy foreign minister, the poisonous substances were found in the storehouses of the militants in Aleppo and in the eastern suburbs of Damascus.
Elsewhere, the Lebanese army said on Aug. 15 that troops have advanced along the border with Syria, tightening the siege on areas controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The Lebanese army said in a statement that the troops discovered bombs and explosive belts left behind by militants in areas captured on the edge of the Lebanese border town of Arsal. It said that they also found the body of an unknown man.