Russian Fighter Jet Crashes Off Syrian Coast
Two pilots were killed on Thursday when a Russian fighter jet crashed off the coast of Syria, the Associated Press reported, citing Russia’s defense ministry.
The SU-30 fighter had not come under fire, the ministry added. The incident may have been caused by a bird being sucked into one of the engines.
The jet reportedly crashed shortly after taking off from the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia province, near the Mediterranean coast.
Two months ago, a Russian military cargo plane crashed near the same airbase, killing all 39 people on board. The crash was said to be due to a technical error.
Rebels Start Evacuating Enclave South of Damascus
Rebel fighters and their families started evacuating three suburbs south of Damascus on Thursday as part of an agreement reached with the Syrian government, Reuters reported.
Syrian state TV reported that some 5,000 fighters and their relatives are expected to leave the Beit Sahem, Babila and Yalda neighborhoods as part of the deal.
The state-run SANA news agency said that 32 buses carrying the first batch of rebels and their families had begun to leave the three towns.
Meanwhile, rebels in northern Homs and southern Hama started to hand over heavy weapons to government forces as part of a similar surrender deal reached on Wednesday, SANA said.
The government started removing barricades on the Homs-Hama highway ahead of the deployment of evacuation buses that will transport fighters and their families from the besieged enclave to other rebel-held areas further north.
SANA said that evacuations from the area are slated to begin within three days.
In a separate enclave south of Damascus, government forces continued to fight the so-called Islamic State in the Yarmouk Palestinian camp and the adjoining Hajar al-Aswad district.
Syrian troops and allied militias on Thursday cut the region held by ISIS militants into two parts, SANA said. The advance has divided ISIS fighters in the Yarmouk camp from others in the Hajar al-Aswad district.
U.N. Expresses Concern Over Potential Operation on Idlib
The United Nations warned against a potential operation in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, Reuters reported.
“We cannot have a war in Idlib. I keep saying that now to Russia, to Iran, to Turkey, to the United States, to anyone that can have an influence,” U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told reporters on Thursday.
Egeland called for negotiations to protect civilians taking refuge in the province, and said recent airstrikes on the area were a bad sign.
Idlib is the largest and most heavily populated opposition enclave in Syria. It is home to more than 1 million internally displaced persons who have fled other parts of the country.
Egeland said Idlib is “full to the brim” with displaced civilians living in the open and in overcrowded camps, or crammed into makeshift collective shelters.
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- The Financial Times: Idlib Offers Uncertain Sanctuary to Syria’s Defeated Rebels
- International Policy Digest: The Need for a New Diplomatic Approach in Syria
- CBS News: The Humanitarians Saving Some of Syria’s War Orphans