by Just An American | October 8, 2015 5:12 am
Russian warships joined the conflict in Syria with a volley of cruise missile attacks on Islamic State as Syrian government troops launched a major ground offensive supported by Moscow air strikes. These are the latest developments since Russia started launching airstrikes in Syria last week!
Bombardment: Footage released from the Russian Defense Ministry shows a Russian navy ship launching a cruise missile in the Caspian Sea at what Moscow said were Islamic State targets in Syria
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Vladimir Putin in televised remarks that four ships based 900 miles away in the Caspian Sea had launched 26 ‘Sizzler’ missiles – and claimed they would strike 11 ISIS targets.
Video released by the Russian Defence Ministry shows the warships launching the missiles which Shoigu insisted destroyed all the targets and did not hit any civilian areas.
Attack: The naval assault came as Syrian government troops launched a ground offensive on rebels
Moscow’s defence ministry said the attacks were launched from warships Dagestan, Uglich, Grad Sviyazhsk and Veliky Ustyug.
The cruise missiles, each costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, ‘engaged all the assigned targets successfully and with high accuracy’ said one Russian media report, giving no further details.
The missiles fly at 550mph and have a range of more than 1,500 miles.
The attacks came as Syrian government troops launched a ground offensive Wednesday in the country’s central region under cover of Russian airstrikes, a Damascus official said.
The latest developments – exactly a week after Russia began launching airstrikes in Syria – add a new layer to the fray in the complex war that has torn this Mideast country apart since 2011.
Moscow has mainly targeted central and northwestern Syria, strategic regions that are the gateway to President
Bashar Assad’s strongholds in Damascus, and along the Mediterranean coast.
But the strikes appear to have given Assad new confidence to try to retake some lost ground.
According to the unnamed Syrian official, the government push is concentrated in the adjacent provinces of Hama and Idlib where rebels have been advancing in the past months.
The Islamic State group is not present in the areas where the fighting is underway.
Wednesday’s offensive in Syria and the ensuing clashes with militants, including Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, was the first major ground fighting since Moscow began launching raids in Syria last week.
It also marked the Russian president’s 63rd birthday, which he celebrated by playing ice hockey at the launch of a new season in Sochi while missiles targeted Syrian rebels.
The Russian airstrikes appear to have emboldened Syrian troops to launch the ground push after suffering a string of setbacks in northwestern Syria over the past few months.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a government offensive began on four fronts early Wednesday in the northwestern provinces of Idlib and neighboring Hama.
Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman described it as ‘the most intense fighting in months.’
In Syria, the leader of a U.S.-backed rebel group, Tajammu Alezzah, confirmed the offensive in a text message to the media, claiming there were Russian and Iranian soldiers in the operation.
The rebel group’s commander, Major Jamil al-Saleh, said the offensive, accompanied by air cover and shelling, came from three fronts, including Latamneh, north of the Hama province where his group is based, and Kfar Zeita to the north.
The offensive targeted the rural part of northern Hama and Idlib, the northwestern province, almost totally controlled by rebel groups, he said.
War cabinet: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) told Vladimir Putin (left) in televised remarks that four ships based 900 miles away in the Caspian Sea had launched 26 strikes on 11 ISIS targets
Cool head: Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) takes part in a gala game opening a new season of the Night Ice Hockey League in Sochi on his 63rd birthday as his jets and warships continued to blitz targets in Syria
In Turkey, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu renewed criticism of Russia’s airstrikes in Syria, insisting they were mainly targeting the moderate Syrian opposition and therefore helping strengthen ISIS.
He asked that Russia also respect Turkey’s security concerns over Syria.
Davatoglu called on Russia to respect Turkey’s air space, saying the country would not ‘make any concessions’ on matters concerning its border security.
Russian warplanes violated Turkey’s borders on two separate occasions over the weekend, drawing strong protests from Turkey’s NATO allies.
Turkey scrambled F-16s in response and also summoned the Russian ambassador to lodge protests.
Earlier, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Turkey had proposed a meeting between Turkish and Russian military officials to be held in Ankara on avoiding future Russian infringements of Turkey’s airspace.
Also Wednesday, Syrian state TV quoted an unnamed Syrian military official as saying that Russian warplanes attacked Islamic State positions in the town of Al-Bab and the nearby town of Deir Hafer in the northern province of Aleppo.
In response to the crisis in Syria, Nato is currently putting together a rapid reaction force – with 13,000 troops ready to be deployed anywhere in the world within three to seven days.
U.S. NATO CHIEF PRAISES RUSSIA’S ‘IMPRESSIVE’ MILITARY POWER
A U.S. ambassador to NATO today praised Russia for its ability to build an ‘impressive’ military presence in Syria in such a short space of time.
Douglas Lute said Moscow’s firepower includes a ‘considerable and growing’ naval presence, long-range rockets and a battalion of ground troops backed by the most modern tanks at its Syria naval base in Tartous and its army base in Latakia.
Speaking on the eve of a NATO defence ministers meeting to be dominated by Russia’s intervention in Syria’s civil war, he said: ‘The force they have deployed down there is actually quite impressive for a rapid deployment of a week or so.
‘(It is) all arms, combined arms, attack aircraft, it is the attack helicopters, artillery and rocket artillery.
‘There is a considerable and growing Russia naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, more than 10 ships now, which is a bit out of the ordinary.’
Western officials say that, in strategic terms, Russia’s new air strike campaign in Syria appears designed to help reverse rebel gains increasingly endangering Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, protect Russian military assets in the country and reassert Moscow’s place as a big international power competing with the United States.
This is happening, this is undoubtedly what WAR looks like.
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