Russian air force strikes besieged Syrian city, delivers aid

Moscow: The Russian military said today it had bombed the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor after a deadly Islamic State assault saw jihadists tighten their siege in the region.

“The Russian operation conducted military operations only in the provinces of Latakia and Deir Ezzor in light of unfavourable weather conditions and to avoid risks for the civilian population,” Russian news agencies quoted military spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying.

Konashenkov added that Russian warplanes had struck 57 targets in 16 combat sorties in these two provinces in the last day.

The military spokesman also said Russia had delivered 50 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Deir Ezzor on January 15.

More than 40 tonnes of humanitarian cargo were delivered earlier this week to the blockaded eastern Syrian city, the defence ministry said yesterday.

IS launched a bloody offensive on Deir Ezzor on Saturday, with dozens of its fighters carrying out suicide bomb attacks as they stormed government positions.

The assault came as the regime sought to advance in northern Aleppo province, capitalising on a Russian air campaign that began on September 30.

The jihadists now control 60 percent of the city of Deir Ezzor, intensifying a siege that had already caused fear and hardship for the roughly 200,000 people still living there.

Around 70 percent of the city’s remaining residents are women and children, according to the United Nations.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late yesterday that IS had released 270 of more than 400 civilians it had abducted during its assault on Deir Ezzor.

The Russian military said yesterday its jets had struck 579 “terrorist targets” in 157 combat sorties in the Aleppo, Raqa, Latakia, Homs, Hama and Deir Ezzor provinces.