Russia carried out new airstrikes on four Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets overnight, the Russian military said on Thursday marking its second day of aerial bombardment in Syria.
The airstrikes hit “terrorist facilities” in Idlib, Hama and Homs, the Defense Ministry said adding that it was strictly avoiding populated areas.
The aim of the strikes is to help the forces of President Bashar al-Assad fight extremists where his forces are struggling, the Kremlin said on Thursday.
“The aim is really to help the armed forces of Syria in their weak spots,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, when asked whether that was Russia's objective.
Separately, a U.S. military spokesman said the U.S. led coalition will not scale back its attack on ISIS despite Russia’s involvement.
“We have not altered operations in Syria to accommodate new players on the battlefield,” military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters, noting that coalition planes had conducted several sorties over Syria in the last 24 hours, some of which resulted in air strikes.
The Russian airstrikes hit “terrorist facilities” in Idlib, Hama and Homs, Russia’s Defense Ministry said adding that it was strictly avoiding populated areas.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said labelled assertions that civilians had been killed in Russian air strikes in Syria as an “information attack.”
He also said Russia was coordinating its actions in Syria with U.S. intelligence and the Pentagon.
The Defense Ministry said that it is exchanging intelligence on Syria with Iranian and Iraqi armed forces, Reuters news agency reported.
Sukhoi-24M and Sukhoi-25 aircraft had flown eight sorties, hitting an ammunition depot near Idlib as well as a three-story ISIS command center near Hama.
It said a pinpoint strike had destroyed a facility located in the north of Homs aimed at rigging cars with explosives for suicide attacks.
Iran backs airstrikes
Also on Thursday, Iran threw its support behind Russia's air strikes describing it as a step to solving "the crisis" in the region.
Iran's foreign ministry said it supported the move that was “based on an official request from the Syrian government to the Russian Federation.”
“Iran sees the Russian military operation against armed terrorist groups in Syria as a step in the fight against terrorism that is in line with resolving the ongoing crisis in the region,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said.
Iran, the Syrian government's key regional ally, has provided Assad with financial and military support, including army advisers on the ground.
“A real and thorough fight against terrorism, which is a common threat to regional and global peace and stability, is necessary,” Afkham said in a statement.
Militants react to airstrikes
“Air strikes from four Russian warplanes struck bases held by the Army of Conquest in Jisr al-Shughur and Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib province,” a Syrian military source told AFP earlier on Thursday.
The source added that arms depots held by “armed groups” in neighboring Hama province were also targeted.
The Army of Conquest has seized all of Idlib province and has advanced west towards Latakia, the stronghold province of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The alliance is also fiercely opposed to the Islamic State group, which Russia insists it is targeting.
On Twitter, a member of the Army of Conquest said “the alliance of Russian pigs launched its operations... by destroying a mosque in Jisr al-Shughur and flattening it.”
Russia launched its first air strikes in war-torn Syria on Wednesday, striking opposition-held areas in the central provinces of Homs and Hama.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Russian military has only struck “terrorist groups,” but France and the United States immediately expressed doubts that Moscow was targeting ISIS.
The head of Syria’s main opposition group accused the Kremlin of aiming to support Assad’s regime and killing 36 civilians in the central province of Homs on Wednesday.
[With AFP and Reuters]