‘Intense’ new Russian strikes in Syria: monitor

Russian warplanes have carried out “intense” new strikes in two Syrian provinces, a monitoring group said today.

Planes “believed to be Russian” hit at least four locations in central Hama province, and three locations in northwestern Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based group had no immediate tolls from the strikes overnight and in the early hours today which were “more intense than usual”.

“For the first time the strikes were accompanied by fighting on the ground between regime forces and rebels,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the clashes took place in Hama province and began when regime forces including pro-government militias launched an attack on rebels as Russian planes carried out air strikes.

“There was also heavy use of surface-to-surface shelling by the regime in the province,” he added.

Both Hama and Idlib provinces have already been heavily targeted by Russian warplanes in an aerial campaign that began a week ago and which Moscow says targets the Islamic State group.

Syrian rebels and their backers accuse Russia of targeting a whole range of opposition forces, including moderate and Islamist rebels, not only IS fighters.

Yesterday night, Russia’s defence ministry said it had carried out air strikes on 12 IS targets throughout the day, including around the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and in Damascus, Idlib and Latakia provinces.