Russia mounts new airstrikes against rebels in Syria

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Russian warplanes Thursday mounted airstrikes against rebels in Syria for the second straight day, Syrian activists and opposition said.

The strikes targeted posts of the Jaish al-Fateh (the army of Conquest), a rebel alliance including Syria’s al-Qaeda al-Nusr Front, in the town of Jisr al-Shoghur in the north-western province of Idlib and the province of Hama further north, Samir al-Nashar, a member of the Western-backed Syrian opposition National Coalition, told dpa.

Jaish al-Fateh is opposed to the Islamic State extremist militia and has fought fierce battles against the al-Qaeda splinter group in some areas in Syria.

In recent months, Jaish al-Fateh insurgents have made territorial gains against the army of the Syrian regime in Idlib.

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel-Rahman, confirmed the latest strikes, saying he believed they had been launched by Russian jets.

An activist based in Idlib, going by the name of Hilal, said at least six people were wounded in a Russian strike on Jisr al- Shoghur.

The pro-Syrian Lebanese television broadcaster Al Mayadeen reported that at least 30 Russian air raids had been carried out on the outskirts of Jisr al-Shoghur and Hama.

In Moscow, the Russian Defence Ministry said Thursday its jets had mounted 12 strikes against Islamic State in Syria in the past 24 hours.

The ministry’s spokesman, General Igor Konashenkov, said an Islamic State command facility had been destroyed in the area of Latamna in Hama.

Russia had deployed a battalion of marines to guard an airbase used by the Russian air force near the Syrian port city of Latakia, he added.

More than 50 Russian warplanes and helicopters are part of the group conducting airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, Konashenkov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

“During the night, four airstrikes against Islamic State targets were conducted,” he told a news conference.

The strikes were carried out by Su-24M and Su-25 attack aircraft, according to the official.

On Wednesday, Russia began its first airstrikes in Syria, saying it targeted and destroyed Islamic State positions.

But the moderate Syrian opposition said the strikes had targeted territory under its control and killed civilians.

Western powers have also expressed doubts that the Russian hits targeted militants, saying they were aimed at backing up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against rebels fighting to oust him.

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