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Russia launches fresh Syria strikes

WT24 Desk

Russia has launched air strikes in Syria for a second day, saying that Islamic State (IS) had been targeted,BBC reports.

The defence ministry said its jets had destroyed an IS ammunition depot and control centres.  However, the areas reportedly attacked appeared to be held by groups opposed to IS and the Syrian government.

The US and its allies fears the strikes have been targeting non-IS opponents of Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – a claim denied by Moscow.

The latest attacks reportedly hit sites in the north-west held by the Army of Conquest rebel alliance, as well as areas in Homs and Hama provinces.

They reportedly hit areas near the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour, as well as areas in Idlib province and Hama province further south, according to Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV.

Rebel activists also reported strikes at Ghantu in Homs province, close to where some of Wednesday’s strikes hit.  Russia said that it had hit 12 IS positions in the past 24 hours, although this cannot be independently verified.

The Army of Conquest (Jaysh al-Fatah) alliance had made advances in the north-west in recent months, taking Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour from pro-government forces.

The alliance includes the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and the hard-line Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, as well as several more moderate Islamist groups.  All are opposed to IS and have fought bloody battles with the jihadist group.

More than 50 planes and helicopters are involved in the Russian military operation in Syria, Russia’s defence ministry said.

The US, which is targeting IS with air strikes in both Syria and Iraq, says it was informed about Russia’s air strikes only an hour before they began on Wednesday.

Nato said there had been little co-ordination by Russia with US-led forces.

The French defence minister said the strikes had not targeted IS, while US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said Russia’s approach was “tantamount to pouring gasoline on the fire” and “doomed to fail” because of the breadth of Syrian opposition to Mr Assad.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his government stood by its targets.  “The rumours that the target of these air strikes was not IS positions are unfounded,” he said. “Talk began that civilians were hurt by air strikes. We have no such data.”

Mr Lavrov said there was a need to “establish channels of communication to avoid any unintended incidents”. His US counterpart, John Kerry, said talks would be held “as soon as possible,” maybe as early as Thursday.

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