Russian airstrikes kill at least 10 in central Syria, monitor says

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At least 10 people were killed Thursday when Russian jets struck areas in central Syria witnessing fierce fighting between regime forces and Islamist rebels, a monitoring group reported.

More than 15 Russian airstrikes were conducted since the early hours of the day on the outskirts of the towns of Talbisseh and Teir Maaleh on the northern edges of the central province of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The dead included six rebel fighters, according to the Britain-based watchdog.

“On the ground, the regime forces along with their allies are trying to separate Homs city [capital of the Homs province] from its outskirts by trying to storm the rebel-held southern areas of Talbisseh,” head of the Observatory, Rami Abdel-Rahman, told dpa.

He added that the Russia-backed troops of President Bashar al-Assad were also trying to secure a major road leading from Homs to the central province of Hama.

Syrian government forces, backed by fighters from the allied Lebanese Hezbollah movement and a Russian air cover, have made limited advances along a 130-kilometre frontline north of Hama over the past week.

The targeted areas on the northern outskirts of Homs are mainly controlled by Islamist rebels, including Syria’s al-Qaeda branch al-Nusra Front, who are fighting both al-Assad’s regime and the Islamic State extremist militia.

The ground and aerial attacks in Homs come amid reports that thousands of Iranian fighters have arrived in Syria to assist al-Assad’s forces.

Russia, an ally of al-Assad, started an air campaign in Syria on September 30 with the declared intent of hitting Islamic State.

The Russian airstrikes on rebel groups fighting both al-Assad’s troops and Islamic State have drawn an angry reaction from Gulf and Western countries that back the Syrian opposition.

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