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Breaking News VIDEOs >Russia Starts Bomb Attacks on Syria

Russia Launches Airstrikes in Syria After Parliament Approves Intervention
>
Putin Defies US as They Accuse Russia of Bombing 'Syrian Rebel Targets Instead of ISIL'

Vladimir Putin request to Russian parliament required under country's law immediately approved, paving the way for open Russian intervention in Syria


Russian airstrikes 'hit Isil targets in Syria', says Moscow

• US officials say Russian jets hit non-Isil area near Homs

• Russia told US to 'leave now' one hour before strikes

• Russia parliament unanimously approved Syria intervention

• Kremlin insists role will be short-term, only air strikes: Putin

• Assad wrote letter to Putin requesting military aid

Telegraph UK 30 September 2015


Latest

15.15 GMT

We have some confirmation now of locations the Russian jets hit: Security source tells AFP areas in Syria hit by Russia: Homs -- Talbiseh, Rastan; Hama -- Latamneh, Kafr Zita; Latakia -- Ghmam, Deir Hana



Russia's launch of air strikes against rebel targets in Syria will not alter the strategy of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, American officials have said.

"The US-led coalition will continue to fly missions over Iraq and Syria as planned and in support of our international mission to degrade and destroy ISIL," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Explaining the dramatic sequence of events, Kirby said: "A Russian official in Baghdad this morning informed US Embassy personnel that Russian military aircraft would begin flying anti-ISIL missions today over Syria.

"He further requested that US aircraft avoid Syrian airspace during these missions," he said.


Separately, a senior US official told reporters that the United States did not consider this brief heads-up to be in keeping with Moscow's promise to communicate with US forces to "de-conflict" the combat area in order to prevent accidental encounters.


TIMELINE OF EVENTS SO FAR TODAY:


14.54

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 27 dead, including five women and six children, from the strikes in the towns of al-Rastan and Talbisah as well as the village of al-Zafaraaneh. All are in the northern Homs countryside.
They added the number of dead is likely to rise as there are many still buried under the rubble.


14.38

Bebars al-Telawi, a media activist from the Syrian city of Homs, which was just hit with Russian jets, tells the Telegraph's Nabih Bulos in Beirut via Skype:

"Before yesterday there were reconnaissance aircraft that we had never seen before flying over our area. They were checking out targets.
But today, the planes came from the coast, not from the eastern area or from the direction of Hama where there are regime bases. We're used to seeing them come from there. But today was different, and they did this so they could wage attacks on the northern countryside of Homs. It was also a different type of plane than one we had seen in the past.

"In the last seven days, the regime's planes were attacking Palmyra and Qaryatayn, which are both held by Daesh (Isil) and are in the eastern part of Homs [province]. Today, they struck the western side of Homs, and there is no Daesh there. This means that now everything is allowed; anyone against Bashar [al-Assad] will be a target."





14.29

Russia has (finally) publicly confirmed the beginning of Russian air operations. Maj. Gen. Igor Konshenkov said:


In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Federation Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin, Russian airforce planes today began air operations with surgical strikes against identified ground targets of the terrorist group Isil in the Syrian Arab Republic.


14.20

Russian airstrikes may have hit non-Islamic State targets beyond the Homs area, according to a US official.

Vladimir Putin this week defended Russia's support for Syrian president Assad on the grounds of defeating Isil, calling for an anti-Hitler style coalition. However, Kremlin critics have said Mr Putin is less interested in defeating Isil than he is in shoring up the Assad regime in order to bolster Russia's influence in the Middle East.

So, who else could Russian jets be targeting?

Ruth Sherlock writes:

Russia may have targeted Jaysh al-Fatah as they are the rebel group that poses the greatest threat to Latakia, the regime's heartland and location of the Russian controlled port of Tartous.
Some background on who this group are: Jaysh al-Fateh - the Army of Conquest - is a broad alliance of hardline Islamist groups, which includes both Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.
In March this group captured Idlib, making it the second provincial capital to fall to the opposition since the start of the war.

Since then they have been effective in fighting the regime in Idlib and it looks like they may be able to push on government strongholds in central Syria and Latakia.

One interesting note - the Russians appear to have been watching this group for a long time: A year ago much of the Ahrar al-Sham leadership was wiped out by an explosion that took place where all the commanders had gathered.

A Syrian businessman who has close connections with the government in Damascus told me yesterday that this was the regime's doing, and came from a tip by Russian intelligence.


14.10

Vladimir Putin "expects Bashar al-Assad to sit down and talk with the Syrian opposition about a political settlement in Syria", in comments reported today by Russian news agencies. He also said he will help Assad's army fight Isil "as long as their offensive operation lasts".

Russia's position has been that Assad could remain in power even if Isil is defeated.

Contrarily, David Cameron told CBS this week that "at the end of that, Assad cannot be the head of Syria".


14.04

Russia's Orthodox Church has praised Vladimir Putin's intervention in Syria as a "Holy war".


The fight with terrorism is a holy war and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it.
This decision [to deploy Russian airforce] corresponds with international law, the mentality of our people and the special role that our country has always played in the Middle East.

Russia's Orthodox Church, after years of repression under the Soviets, has regained much of its influence and built up close ties with the government despite a formal separation of Church and state. President Vladimir Putin is regularly depicted attending services.


13.59

The Pentagon's top official dealing with Russia has just resigned.

Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defence for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, will leave at the end of October, a senior defence official told Politico.
Ms Farkas's responsibilities included dealing with Russia on Syria and Ukraine.


13.50

Russian air strikes do not appear to be targeting Isil-held areas of Syria, a US official has told Reuters.

There have been multiple reports throughout the day of Russian air strikes hitting moderate and other Islamist rebel groups.

In particular, they appear to have hit Jaysh al-Fatah, an Islamist alliance that has become an increasingly strong fighting force against the regime, and also "Tajamou' Al-Izza", a Free Syrian Army aligned rebel group in Hama.

However, none of these reports been confirmed.
Russia told the US it was launching airstrikes today near Homs, an area where Isil does not have a strong presence relative to elsewhere in Syria
(- Isil territory in grey/black);





(+ See the SCREENSHOT below of map - Isil territory in grey/black).


13.47

Vladimir Putin is now speaking about today's approval of military intervention in Syria.
He reiterates that Russia will support Assad only with air strikes, not land operations, and that Russian engagement will be "temporary".
He also says that Russia must deal with terrorists in Syria "preemptively", and won't wait for them to "come to Russia".
He says that it is possible and necessary for international anti-terror efforts to unite.


13.43

Here is the full Syrian regime statement concerning its request to Russia for air strikes (see 11.45):


After the ratification of the Unitary Council in the Russian Federation of the law that allows President Putin to use the Russian air force abroad, questions had come to the presidency of the republic regarding the context of the presence of Russian air power in Syria.
Accordingly we confirm that the relationship between nations is governed by charters and international laws and treaties that occur between these nations to achieve the interests of their peoples and guarantee the safety of the unity of their lands.

Based on the above, the sending of the Russian air force came at the request of the Syrian government via a letter sent by President Assad to President Putin that included a cal for the sending of the Russian air force within the framework of President Putin's initiative to fight terror.


13.34

American officials are distinctly unimpressed with Russia's request that the US avoids Syrian airspace while Russia conducts "anti-Isil missions"


13.19

Russia gave the US one hour's notice ahead of today's airstrikes near Homs, Syria, said a US official.
The official, talking on condition of anonymity, said the information on the air strikes was preliminary and declined to give any details, including on the number of strikes or the aircraft used.


They gave us a heads-up they were going to start striking in Syria. It was in the vicinity of Homs.





At least 12 Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes lined-up on the secondary runway at al-Assad airbase near Latakia, the same airfield hosting the four Russian Air Force Su-30SM multirole combat planes.


13.10

Fox News has published more details on its claim that Russia has demanded that American warplanes exit Syrian airspace immediately.


Citing a senior U.S. official, reports that Russian diplomats "sent an official demarche ordering US planes out of Syria, adding that Russian fighter jets were now flying over Syrian territory"

US military sources told Fox News that US planes would not comply with the Russian demand:


There is nothing to indicate that we are changing operations over Syria
We have had every indication in recent weeks that [the Russians] were going to do something given the build-up


13.03

Russia gave the US advanced notice that it intended to carry out airstrikes, Reuters is reporting.
This ties in with the Kremlin's comments earlier this morning (see 09.10) that Moscow would share information on air strikes in Syria with the US via its new Baghdad intelligence centre.
The Baghdad centre has been set up by Russia along with Iran, Iraq and the Syrian regime, following an announcement earlier this week.





A picture released on July 12, 2015 by the Rased News Network, a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant fires a heavy weapon during a battle against Syrian government forces in Homs province, Syria. Photo: AP


12.56

US officials are now widely briefing that Russia has started carrying out airstrikes in Syria, following a vote by the Moscow's upper house of parliament this morning approving military action in Syria.

12.51

CNN is now also reporting that Russia has conducted its first airstrike in Syria, near the city of Homs, citing a "senior US official".

12.33

It is not yet clear whether the reported airstrikes against Isil targets by Russia planes were carried out by Russian pilots or Syrian pilots:

12.26

The picture in Syria is further compliated by the confirmation of airstrikes being carried out by both the US-led coalition, and the Syrian regime.

The US-led coalition conducted four airstrikes against Isil in Syria on Tuesday, it said in a statement. The strikes were spread among Deir ez-Zor, Washiya and Palmyra, where they primarily destroyed or damaged excavators belonging to the militant group.

Meanwhile at least 27 people were killed in Syrian regime airstrikes on areas in the western province of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.
The strikes targeted northern areas in the Homs countryside. Six children were among the dead, while dozens were wounded, the Observatory added. The target was not specified, but is likely to be moderate rebels rather than Isil.

12.21

Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of the Russian upper house of parliament, says senators approved Vladimir Putin's permission for airstrikes in order to crush the "hydra" of terrorism:


We proceeded from the fact that first of all it is in the interests of national security of Russia for many reasons.
Because if today this hydra is not crushed at its roots, where it is already at war, if we do not destroy "Islamic State" today, Isil could come to threaten the entire world, including Europe and Russia.





The new escalation in the war of words follows Putin's latest intervention in the war in Syria



12.07

Russia's ministry of defence is now claiming it has hit Isil targets in Syria with airstrikes, according to ABC News, citing Russia's Interfax news agency.

12.04

Roland Oliphant explains the high domestic significance of this morning's Russian vote approving military intervention in Syria:


Today’s Federation Council vote marks a dramatic departure from previous Kremlin policy.
For years, Russia has condemned Western military interventions for in places like Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya as illegal, shortsighted, and counter productive.
Now Russia seems to be doing exactly the same kind of thing. And that could be tricky to sell at home.

A recent opinion poll by the Levada Centre, an independent pollster, found that 69 percent of Russians were opposed to giving “direct military support” to Assad by deploying troops to Syria.

And while the government can rely on tightly-controlled federal television channels to give the policy the best possible spin, it appears to be sensitive to the risks of a public backlash.
Hence much of what Sergei Ivanov, Mr Putin’s chief of staff, said when he announced the intervention this morning was intended to reassure the Russian public.

First he cited precedent, saying Russia previously sent forces "to fight terrorism abroad" when it intervened in a civil war in Tajikistan in the early 1990s.
And he stressed that Russia’s intervention was legal because Mr Assad had requested it - unlike, he said, the American-led air campaign, which he described as illegitimate and outside international law.
He also ruled out ground operations, insisted the air campaign would not be open-ended, and promised “social and financial” support for Russian servicemen involved.

At least initially, however, analysts said the government can be confident of support for their new war.

"Do you know what dialectics is? Previous interventions were bad, but this one is good. The message is that simple," said Fyodor Lukyanov, a prominent foreign policy analyst, when asked how the government would justify the U-turn.


11.45

President Bashar al-Assad wrote to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to request military support, and any increase in Russian presence in the country was the result of a request, the Syrian regime said on Wednesday:


Any increase in Russian military support to Syria happened and is happening as a result of a request from the Syrian state.


11.38

Opposition groups have claimed that airstrikes taking place across Syria today have been carried out by Russian jets, and even Russian pilots.
However, these claims have not yet been verified.
A Kremlin spokesman earlier today declined to comment on whether Russia has already started airstrikes in Syria.

11.16

According to Fox News, Russian officials have demanded US warplanes exit Syria "immediately"

10.57

Nabil Bulos reports from Beirut on the reaction to this morning's vote in the Arabic-speaking press:


Faisal Al-Qaasem, the combative host of the famous talk show "Opposite Direction" on Al-Jazeera, said on Twitter:

"Putin requested parliament to allow him to use the army outside the country? Do not worry, Putin, your parliament will allow you to do this because it is a carbon copy of the People's Council of Bashar Al-Assad [which rubber stamps all decisions made by Assad]"


Mohammad Sabra, a Syrian commentator writing in London-based Qatari-funded newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, said:

"The Russians declared it clearly that their intervention will lead to a solution which would keep Bashar Al-Assad for the time sufficient to destroy Daesh [Isil]. And then the options of a political transition in Syria can be explored."


10.18

Russia is not the only country opening an air strike campaign in Syria.
The first airstrikes by French warplanes in Syria earlier this week killed 30 militants at an Isil training camp, a Syrian activist group has said.
President Francois Hollande said six French jet fighters on Sunday destroyed the camp in a five-hour operation - the first action by France since it expanded its mission against Isil. Until recently, France was only part of the airstrikes on Isil targets in Iraq.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground, said on Wednesday that 12 teenage fighters and several militants from various Arab countries were among those killed near the eastern town of Jalaa.
The youths trained by IS are known as "Cubs of the Caliphate." The Observatory says at least 20 IS members were wounded.

09.50

The Kremlin has insisted this morning that Moscow is not going to send ground troops to Syria, but will only use its air force "in order to support the government Syrian forces in their fight against the Islamic State" group.

However, Russia has already sent at least 500 troops to the city of Latakia and the adjacent port of Tartous on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. It has built military accommodation for up to 2,000 troops in the country.


Russia has also sent 28 jets to Syria (which the Kremlin denies have already started carrying out air strikes in Syria), 15 military helicopters and at least two batteries of SA-22 surface-to-air missiles.

09.42

Roland Oliphant in Moscow explains why just a few weeks ago this bold move by Vladimir Putin would have been considered highly unlikely:


Rossia 24, Russia's state-owned rolling news channel, is channelling Western broadcasters circa 2003. Endless repetitions of Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov's comments, stand-ups from correspondents in Syria, and commentary from various experts are being overlaid with constantly recycled footage of fighting in Syria.
This decision will not have come as a surprise given the developments of the past few weeks. But it is important to note how this decision initially blindsided many Kremlin commentators.

Just a couple of months ago, the received wisdom amongst Russia's best-connected and shrewdest foreign policy commentators was that Russia might provide Mr Assad with weapons and diplomatic cover, but would sooner see him fall than risk getting involved in the war on his behalf.

In fact, asking whether Mr Putin would consider a step like this drew laughter or rolling of the eyes.

"The Kremlin has not lost its mind," I was told recently. "The government is very wisely keeping this conflict at arms length and handling it very carefully."

Another commentator said the Kremlin's calculation was that Mr Assad's fall, if it happened, would leave Russia with the moral high ground without looking weak because they had not committed troops.
They were not exactly wrong - such comments were based on sound analysis of long-standing Kremlin policy. But in recent weeks the Kremlin has rapidly recalculated, and dramatically changed course.






09.36


France is investigating Bashar al-Assad over alleged crimes against humanity, the Paris prosecutor's office said on Wednesday.

The investigation, which is also examining claims of torture and kidnapping by Assad's forces, was opened "on the basis of indications received from the foreign ministry" on Sept. 10, an official at the prosecutor's office said.

The ministry's dossier drew on some 55,000 photographic images smuggled out of the country by a former Syrian army officer, showing 11,000 alleged victims of forces loyal to Assad, according to various media reports.

France recently joined other western powers in softening earlier demands that Assad leave office as a precondition for peace talks.


09.25

Kremlin's chief of staff Sergei Ivanov has said that Russia’s involvement in Syria would be “temporary,” and ruled out open-ended involvement.


The Russian airforce cannot operate endlessly, and this operation obviously has very specific time limits. But the precise timings, types of weapons and forces to be used, and so on I cannot at this time announce.
All our partners will be informed of this decision and its details today.
All social and financial need of servicemen involved in this operation will be met, and decision on that has already been taken.





Aircraft deployed around Bassel Al Assad Air Base in Syria. Russia has sought military-to-military discussions with the United States as it forges ahead with a buildup in Syria that now includes more than two dozen advanced fighter jets, as well as tanks, troops and artillery. Photo: REUTERS/www.Stratfor.com/Digital Globe



09.16

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad asked Russia's Vladimir Putin for military aid, the Kremlin's chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said on Wednesday.
Assad "has appealed to the leadership of our country with a request for military aid," Mr Ivanov said after Russian senators gave their unanimous approval to allow the armed forces to carry out air strikes in Syria. He said:


Already a range of states are conducting rocket bomb strikes in Syria and Iraq, including the United States. France recently joined those operations.
But these actions violate international law. To be in accordance with international law, one condition must be observed: either a UNSC resolution, or a request for military assistance from the state on whose territory those strikes are to take place.

“In that connection, I want to announced that the Syrian government has appealed to the leadership of our country with a request for military aid.





Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Photo: AFP (File)


09.10

Russia will brief other countries on its Middle East operations later on Wednesday, RIA news agency reports.

Moscow is sharing information on air strikes in Syria with the US via its new Baghdad intelligence centre, which Russia has set up with Iran, Iraq and the Syrian regime, according to Interfax.

09.05

Sergei Ivanov, the head of the presidential administration, has been speaking to Russian state television. He said:


I want to say the result of the vote was a unanimous approval of the Russian president’s request.

Importantly: this is specifically about Syria. I want to underline that this is not about any kind of political objective or ambitions that we have been accused of by our western partners. It is only about international interests of Russian Federation.

Already a range of states are conducting rocket bomb strikes in Syria and Iraq, including the United States. France recently joined those operations.
But these actions violate international law. To be in accordance with international law, one condition must be observed: either a UNSC resolution, or a request for military assistance from the state on whose territory those strikes are to take place.

Earlier Mr Putin said that Russia would only enter the war inside Syria as Bashar Assad's request.


09.00

Russia's upper house of parliament has authorised military intervention in Syria, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday.
The Federation Council immediately approved a Kremlin request for permission to send troops on combat missions in Syria on Wednesday morning, according to Russian news organisations.

The announcement came only moments after the Federation Council said it would "consider the question" of sending troops abroad.

The Russian constitution requires the president to seek permission from the upper house before sending troops on overseas combat missions.

The announcement comes after Vladimir Putin confirmed that Russia would consider conducting airstrikes against Islamic State jihadists in Syria.
Russia is believed to have deployed up to 2,000 troops and a detachment of combat aircraft to Syria in recent weeks.

Last week the Kremlin denied a Bloomberg report that it would ask parliament for authorisation to deploy 2,000 airforce personnel to Syria.
Commenting on reports last week, Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he “had not seen any documents concerning this issue.”

The Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament, on Wednesday cut its live web-cast broadcast in order to consider Mr Putin's request.

The last time the Russian parliament granted Mr Putin the right to deploy troops abroad, a technical requirement under Russian law, Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine last year.



Russia Military Planes Filmed Above Syria Days ago



Russia Starts Bomb Attacks



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