Flashback: Russia Kills US-Backed Syrian Rebels In Second Day Of Air Strikes As Iran Prepares For Ground Offensive

Russia Kills US-Backed Syrian Rebels In Second Day Of Air Strikes As Iran Prepares For Ground Offensive

Russia Kills US-Backed Syrian Rebels In Second Day Of Air Strikes As Iran Prepares For Ground Offensive

Russian jets bomb rebel positions in Syria including rural areas near the north-western town of Jisr al-Shughour, a day after launching air strikes.

Latest: Telegraph
Here is our summary of events in Syria on Thursday, from Richard Spencer, Middle East Editor, Nabih Bulos in Beirut and Ruth Sherlock in Washington:
• Iran was on Thursday night moving up its ground forces in Syria in preparation for an attack to reclaim rebel-held territory under the cover of Russian air strikes, according to sources close to Damascus. Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia which has come to the Assad regime’s rescue in battle-fronts across the country in the past two years, is being prepared to capitalise on the strikes, a Syrian figure close to the regime told The Telegraph
• Sources in Lebanon told Reuters that Iran, which is the main sponsor and tactical adviser to Hizbollah, was sending in hundreds of its own troops to reinforce them. Iran made no comment on the claims but Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said the move would be an “apt and powerful illustration” that Russia’s military actions had worsened the conflict.
• A Hizbollah-backed advance would fit the pattern of Russian air-strikes, which have predominantly targeted those rebels not aligned to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who currently present the gravest threat on the ground to core regime territory.
• The long-term aim would be to defeat or demoralise the non-Isil opposition, so that Isil became the regime’s only enemy. That would force the West to back President Bashar al-Assad against it. “They want to clean the country of non-Isil rebels, and then the US will work with them as Isil will be the only enemy,” the Damascus source said.

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Smoke rises after airstrikes by military jets in Talbiseh, Homs province Photo: AP
• The Russians continued their aerial bombardment on Thursday. Targets included Jisr al-Shughour and Jabal al-Zawiya, areas under the control of Jaish al-Fatah, the Army of Conquest, an alliance of Islamist groups which have won significant victories against the regime this year. They also included Isil targets in Raqqa and Deir Ezzour provinces, including a Syrian Air Force base which fell to Isil earlier this year after a long siege.
• The Kremlin admitted on Thursday that targets included non-Isil targets – something it had previously denied – and that its aim was to shore the regime “in its weak spots”. The White House last night said the failure to discriminate between Isil and other rebel groups was a “grave miscalculation”.

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