Russia begins airstrikes in support of Syrian army; US claims they may not be targeting IS

Russia begins airstrikes in support of Syrian army; US claims they may not be targeting IS

Russia has started to launch airstrikes in Syria, according to a US defence official.

The move follows a unanimous vote by Russian lawmakers to allow President Vladimir Putin to order airstrikes in Syria, where Russia has deployed fighter jets and other weapons in recent weeks.

The unnamed US official said the airstrikes were launched on Wednesday near Homs.

President Putin says his air force will be supporting the Syrian army in its offensive operations.

Mr Putin said that Russia is “not going to plunge into this conflict head-on” and will help Bashar Assad’s army as long as their offensive operation lasts.

Russia begins airstrikes in support of Syrian army; US claims they may not be targeting IS

Mr Putin also said he expects President Assad to sit down and talk with the Syrian opposition about a political settlement in Syria.

A senior US official later said that Russia's airstrikes in Syria did not appear to be targeting the Islamic State group, but other opposition groups fighting against President Assad.

The official said IS militants are not in the western part of the country, beyond Homs, where the Russian strikes were directed.

Russia notified the US about the impending airstrikes through the embassy in Baghdad about an hour before they started, the official said.

According to the official, there were no conflicts with the Russian strikes, and they had no impact on the coalition missions, which are primarily in the north and east.

The US is still trying to assess the damages of the Russian strikes.

The upper chamber of Russian parliament earlier gave the green light to Mr Putin’s request to use Russian armed forces in Syria.

Russia recently moved fighter aircraft to an air base south of the Syrian coastal city of Latakia.

US officials had said in recent days that the Russians were flying reconnaissance missions without dropping bombs to familiarise themselves within the area.

That was taken as an indication that they were about to begin airstrikes.

President Assad welcomed the decision by Russia to send troops to his war-torn country, saying the military support from Moscow is the result of a Damascus request.

According to a statement by Mr Assad’s office, the Syrian leader had sent a letter to his Russian counterpart, asking for the support. Mr Assad’s Facebook page also reiterated that it “came upon a request from the Syrian state”.

Russia has been one of President Assad’s strongest allies since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011. The civil war has killed more than 250,000 people and wounded a million, according to UN figures.

On the ground, Syrian activists said that air raids on the central provinces of Homs and Hama killed and wounded dozens of people on Wednesday.

An activist group known as the Local Coordination Committees claimed that the planes that carried out the air raids were Russian.

It cited residents in the areas bombed as saying the explosions were much more powerful and accurate than those carried out by government planes.

More in this Section

Rubbish piling up in Athens as workers embark on series of strikesRubbish piling up in Athens as workers embark on series of strikes

SNP might want no-deal Brexit, claims Michael GoveSNP might want no-deal Brexit, claims Michael Gove

Scientists develop artificial leaf capable of producing clean gasScientists develop artificial leaf capable of producing clean gas

Commons Speaker rejects bid to hold 'meaningful vote' on Johnson's Brexit deal Commons Speaker rejects bid to hold 'meaningful vote' on Johnson's Brexit deal


Lifestyle

Volunteers from the multinational tech company harvest food fresh from Fota Gardens, writes Peter Dowdall.Made in Munster: The tech giant Apple harvesting food from Fota Gardens

Peter Dowdall takes a look at a plant that thrives in damp soil and is a key part of Ireland’s biodiversityThe wonders of willows: A key part of Ireland’s biodiversity

Pollutants can have an impact on your health, but there are things you can do to reduce the potential damage.High pollution days ‘lead to more cardiac arrests and strokes’: 5 easy ways to protect yourself

Even if you only have room for one pot in the smallest space, plant some tulips in it to make your garden spring to life, says Hannah Stephenson.7 design tips to make your tulips in garden pots stand out in a crowd

More From The Irish Examiner