Russia has warned it could widen its offensive against Islamic State in Syria – which it claims have already killed hundreds of militants – to include missile strikes from ships in the Mediterranean, Sky News reports.
President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of former Soviet nations in Kazakhstan the Russian military has achieved “impressive” results in Syria in the last two-and-a-half weeks. “Dozens of control facilities and ammunition depots, hundreds of terrorists and a large number of weapons have been destroyed,” he said.
The British Foreign Office has said 85% of Russian airstrikes have taken place in areas where IS is not present, adding there is no evidence of any attacks on Raqqa, the group’s stronghold.
The White Helmets, a volunteer search and rescue group, has said at least 274 civilians have been killed and 707 injured by both Russian and government strikes since 30 September, the day Russian aircraft began their raids.
Russian airstrikes are currently supporting an attack by Bashar al Assad’s troops, backed by Hezbollah militants and Iranian fighters, south of Aleppo.
Rebel fighters involved in the latest fighting south of Aleppo were reportedly mainly from the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, the Nusra Front, as well as the Suqour al-Sham and Failaq al-Sham insurgent groups.
The head of another rebel brigade, Fursan al Haq, which is backed by Assad’s foreign opponents and operates under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army, said his fighters had sent more TOW missiles to the area to try to stem the attack.
Meanwhile, in a newspaper interview, a senior Russian military figure said Russian jets have flown more than 600 sorties since the mission began.
However, those were not believed to have targeted IS fighters and four of them landed in Iran. When asked if it might do the same from the Mediterranean, Col-Gen Kartapolov he replied: “Without doubt.” The meeting in Kazakhstan came as a US-led coalition reported three air strikes against IS in Syria on Thursday.
A vehicle and a motorcycle used by Islamic State were also destroyed. The Iraq strikes were concentrated near Ramadi, where tactical units, fighting positions and an improvised explosive device cluster were hit, along with vehicles.