According to BBC News, a Russian helicopter that was delivering aid to the city of Aleppo was shot down by Syrian rebels, killing all five people on board. The Mi-8 transporter helicopter was brought down by rebels in the northern Idlib province, according to the Russian defense ministry. This has been the worst loss of life for Russia since the country began airstrikes against Syria last year. The people on board included three crew members and two officers, but was strictly delivering aid to Aleppo, and was not involved in a military mission, according to Moscow. While not posted in this article, there are also some disturbing social media videos that have been posted that show bodies of the dead crew being trampled on and dragged through the sand by Syrian people.
While it is not clear which group shot the helicopter down, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra) is active in the province where the helicopter was shot down, and the Islamic State has said that they will carry out jihad against the Russian military. This is the third time a Russian helicopter has been shot down since Russia began its airstrike campaign against ISIS last September. In July of last year, two Russian pilots were killed when their helicopter was shot down by ISIS, and in November of last year, a Marine was killed when his helicopter was shot down in Turkey while trying to rescue the pilot of a fighter plane who was also shot down. The pilot of the fighter plane was also killed.
In a CNN News article about the tragedy, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Sputnik news agency that the crew on board the helicopter were heroes.
“Those who were aboard the helicopter, according to information from the Defense Ministry, have died heroically because they were attempting to steer the machine to minimize the casualties on the ground.”
Russian helicopter was shot down in Syria after delivering humanitarian aid, Russia says. https://t.co/t8m90BzS7X— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) August 1, 2016
Footage showed an empty rocket pod by the downed helicopter, which raised questions as to whether the mission was strictly just to carry aid to the city of Aleppo. Jeremy Binnie, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly Middle East and Africa editor, said it was “possible the Russian helicopter was carrying both empty pods and aid, just as it is possible that the pods were empty because the rockets had been fired earlier in the flight.”
The city of Aleppo, which is the second largest city in Syria, was in the news back in April, when a hospital was bombed, killing at least 27 people, according to an article by the Inquisitr. The Syrian government has controlled Aleppo since 2014, but because it is one of the largest cities, rebel forces have been trying to gain control of it, and on Sunday, the rebels launched an attack to try to take control of the city. Right now, according to Fox News, there are about 300,000 people trapped in the city with little to no food and medical supplies, which is why Russia sent aid by helicopter. Fortunately for citizens of Aleppo, the Russian crew succeeded in bringing aid to the people, it was after they delivered their cargo that the helicopter was shot down.
Rebels in Aleppo fight to break siege with time running low https://t.co/GVuc3W5Y8b— TIME.com (@TIME) August 1, 2016
The Syrian and Russian militaries have secured safe corridors for residents who want to flee the besieged city, but as of Saturday only a few people had left. Another hospital, in the city of Jasem, which is in southern Syria, was also destroyed Sunday after several airstrikes were launched. Six people were killed in the strikes, including a pharmacist in the hospital. The president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, said the group was “dismayed” and “angry” about the attack on the hospital and called for everyone involved to held accountable.
“Aid workers and civilians are being targeted in a merciless way on a daily basis.”
Right now it is estimated that over a quarter million people have been killed in the ongoing Syrian war, and according to the U.N., half of the population of Syria has been displaced since the war began.
[Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Images]