Russia says targeting ISIL leaving Syria’s Raqqa
Russian warplanes have launched a series of strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fleeing their Syrian stronghold Raqqa, Moscow said yesterday, as U.S.-backed forces edge closer to the city.
The defense ministry in Moscow said Russian aviation bombed ISIL convoys leaving their de-facto capital to the south in the direction of the ancient city of Palmyra on May 25 and overnight from May 29 to May 30.
The second strike destroyed dozens of cars and pickup trucks and killed scores of ISIL fighters, the ministry claimed in a statement.
“Russian commanders in Syria have warned that any attempt by ISIL fighters to leave Raqqa through the open corridor towards Palmyra will be decisively intercepted,” the ministry said.
The latest announcement comes a day after Moscow said it fired four cruise missiles from a submarine and warship in the Mediterranean Sea at ISIL fighters who had moved close to Palmyra from Raqqa. A U.S.-backed alliance of the Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which Turkey sees as terrorist for its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, is closing in on Raqqa from the north, west and east, but has not yet battled its way to areas south of the city.
Russia has previously suggested that Kurdish forces have wilfully allowed ISIL to leave the city in the direction of territory controlled by the Syrian government. Russia has been flying a bombing campaign in Syria since 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad, while the US has been leading a coalition mainly targeting ISIL.
About 10,000 civilians have fled to a camp just north of Raqqa with hundreds more arriving each day as the battle for the city nears, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said yesterday.