Russia bombs nearly 1,500 Syrian targets, oil fields: military

Moscow: Russian airforce has struck nearly 1,500 targets all over Syria over the past nine days, the military said, its bombers now flying under cover of strategic fighter jets following the downing of a plane by Turkey last week.

Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing that the Russian air contingent carried out 431 sorties and bombed 1458 targets in several regions of Syria, without mentioning whether any of them were affiliated with the Islamic State jihadist group.

Among the targets was a “command post” near the town of Khnaifess in the Homs region, and a “large ammunitions stockpile” near Morek in Hama region, which was captured from the Syrian army in early November.

The airstrikes also “destroyed a large militant base” at a strategic location near Kassab in Latakia region, leading to Syrian army “taking the high ground,” the ministry said.

In Hama region, the airstrikes “liquidated” several field commanders near rebel-held Latamina, and bombed several strategic high-ground locations, including Hazm al-Abyad.

Some 40 large trucks and cisterns “used to transport oil” were destroyed during strikes on two groups of vehicles near Aleppo and Raqqa, while elsewhere 12 oil pumping stations and eight oil fields were targeted.

Moscow is at loggerheads with Ankara following the downing of its warplane over the Syria-Turkish border on December 24. The incident caused Russia to send Su-30 fighters to give cover to its bombers on “all runs” during recent days.

Moscow has accused the Turkish leadership of participating in the smuggling of oil from IS-controlled territory.

Last week President Vladimir Putin said after meeting French counterpart Francois Hollande that the two agreed to “exchange information” about the location of jihadists and indicated that he would avoid targeting the “healthy part of the opposition” in Syria.

However the defence ministry gave no detail today in its briefing on what groups it has bombed since December 26, as it enters the third month of its air campaign to help government troops in Syria.