Middle East

Syria military jet downed in northern Hama, pilot killed

File photo of MiG-23 fighter-bomber conducting air strike in rebel-held area of Qabun, east of Damascus, 6 May 2017 (AFP)

Syria's armed forces said militants downed a military jet in the northern Hama province on Tuesday, killing the pilot.

Militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – a fighting force dominated by members of al-Qaeda's former branch in Syria – said it hit the plane.

Syria's official news agency SANA reported that the pilot was shot by the militant “organisations positioned in the countryside of Hama”.

It added that the Russian military carried out “concentrated operations” against militants in the Hama province.

A source said the militants were searching for another pilot they believed had survived the crash.

Syria's air force and army, supported by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias, have stepped up an offensive in Hama in recent weeks, pushing north towards the rebel stronghold of Idlib.

The Syrian army said it captured the town of Tal al-Aswad, south of the Idlib province, on Tuesday.

Aid workers and witnesses say dozens of civilians have been killed in towns and villages away from the front lines.

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