Turkey-backed rebels down Syrian helicopter in Idlib: agency
ISTANBUL/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Turkey-backed Syrian rebels shot down a government helicopter west of Aleppo in Syria's northwestern Idlib region, where violence and displacement has spiked in recent weeks, Turkish state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday.
A rebel military source and eyewitnesses told Reuters Russian jets had been targeting areas in the countryside west of Aleppo earlier on Friday, but they evacuated back to the city after the helicopter was downed.
Turkey's military has sent additional arms and troops to Idlib, on its southern border, to confront a push by Russia-backed Syrian government forces to retake the country's last major rebel stronghold after nearly nine years of war.
The Syrian Observatory war monitor said on Friday that Turkey had deployed around 6,500 soldiers to reinforce existing units in northwest Syria, as well as some 1,900 military vehicles since early February.
The helicopter was struck as it flew over the front lines after leaving Aleppo, which is controlled by the government, Anadolu said. Rebels downed another government helicopter on Tuesday near the town of Nairab, to the south.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Eric Knecht; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)
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