Syria rebels down warplane in northwest

Syrian rebels shot down a fighter jet on Wednesday in the embattled northwest of the country near the border with Turkey, said an AFP correspondent on the frontier.

The warplane came down in a massive explosion, leaving behind a plume of smoke, the journalist said, reporting several kilometres (miles) away from where the jet was downed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the aircraft was hit by a missile and that it crashed at Daret Ezza, which lays on the border between the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.

Large swathes of both provinces are in rebel hands.

The downing marked the second aircraft hit by rebel missiles in 24 hours.

On Tuesday, rebels for the first time used a surface-to-air missile to shoot down a helicopter gunship near Aleppo.

The gunship was hit as it strafed an area surrounding a military base at Sheikh Suleiman, which rebels have been trying to seize for weeks.

Sheikh Suleiman is located 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Aleppo, and is the last garrison in government hands between Syria's second city and the Turkish border.

The Observatory said rebels had recently received a consignment of missiles that have the potential to change the balance of forces in the 20-month conflict.

UNDERSTANDING THE SYRIA CONFLICT