‘Fiercest clashes’ as Syria regime advances with Russian support
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
AP photoSyrian troops backed by Russian air strikes fought their fiercest clashes with rebels in weeks on Oct. 12 as Russia’s air force hit 53 targets in the country in 24 hours, Moscow has said.
Russian jets conducted strikes in the provinces of Hama, Homs, Latakia and Idlib and destroyed “terrorist” command posts, defensive positions, training camps and ammunition depots, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.
It said the bombing raids had severely disrupted supply chains for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters.
“In recent days, the terrorists are making desperate attempts at smuggling ammunition, weapons, fuel and military materials from the Raqa province to the front line with the Syrian army,” the ministry said.
“Strikes conducted by Russian warplanes have destroyed a considerable portion of their weapons, ammunition and fuel for military equipment.”
The ministry had said on Oct. 10 that the strikes were demoralizing fighters, who it claimed were abandoning combat positions and retreating to the east and northeast of Syria.
The coalition led by the United States conducted 18 air strikes against ISIL in Iraq on Oct. 11, according to a military statement that did not directly address reports that the militant group’s reclusive leader was killed in one of the bombardments.
The coalition also conducted two air strikes against ISIL in Syria.
Meeting in Luxembourg, European Union foreign ministers said lasting peace in Syria was impossible without a transition from President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
And Iraq said it was trying to confirm reports that ISIL group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been wounded in an Iraqi strike on his convoy.
On the ground in Syria, the army command said regime forces had captured the village of Kafr Nabuda in central Hama province, extending their advance in the region around the strategic Damascus-Aleppo highway.
Regime forces have been pushing an offensive on either side of the highway towards the town of Khan Sheikhun, just over the provincial border in Idlib province.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said clashes were ongoing in Kafr Nabuda, adding that Russian warplanes had carried out at least 20 strikes in and around the village.