Russian jets carry out fresh airstrikes in Syria

Czech minister says Moscow’s involvement in Syria may worsen refugee crisis; Tehran issues statement supporting Russian war on ‘terrorists’

Illustrative image of airstrikes on the town of Talbiseh in the Homs province, western Syria, September 30, 2015. (Homs Media Centre via AP)
Illustrative image of airstrikes on the town of Talbiseh in the Homs province, western Syria, September 30, 2015. (Homs Media Centre via AP)

Fresh Russian air strikes Thursday targeted bases held by a powerful Islamist rebel coalition including Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in northwest Syria, a Syrian security source said.

“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,” the source said, adding that arms depots held by “armed groups” in the neighboring Hama province were also targeted.

A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s airstrikes in Syria are targeting not only Islamic State militants but also other extremist groups.

Russia on Wednesday carried out its first airstrikes in Syria. Moscow insisted that it was targeting IS militants while US officials and other cast doubt on the claim, saying the Russians appeared to be attacking opposition groups fighting Syrian government forces.

The Russian Defense Ministry also tweeted about the strikes.

Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Russia is going after IS militants and other “well-known” groups.

Asked whether Russia is choosing its own targets or following the instructions of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Peskov said the targets were chosen “in coordination” with the Syrian army.

The Russian defense ministry said late Wednesday that Russia had carried out 20 airstrikes.

Meanwhile, a member of the Czech government warned on Thursday that Russian airstrikes in Syria can only worsen the migrant crisis in Europe and result in a new wave of refugees.

Addressing the lower house of Parliament, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said Thursday: “I am looking with a deep distrust at the Russian military engagement in the area,” adding that airstrikes alone “solve nothing.”

He added that there are millions of Syrians displaced from their homes in their own country and “if they lose hope the war will end … they’ll be again heading for Germany.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement supporting Russian airstrikes against “terrorist groups” in Syria.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran considers military action by Russia against armed terrorist groups to be a step toward fighting terrorism and toward resolving the current crisis” in Syria, said a statement by the ministry’s spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham.

She said the airstrikes come in response to an “official request by Syria’s government from the Russian Federation.” The statement was carried by the official IRNA news agency.

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