Moscow 'winding down' Syria bombings after ground offensive success

Moscow 'winding down' Syria bombings after ground offensive success
Syrian troops and their allies, backed by Russian jets, attacked rebel-held towns north of the city of Homs on Thursday, which Moscow claims to have been a success.
3 min read
15 October, 2015

Russian has claimed to have eased up it bombing of Syria, following the success of a ground offensive by regime and allied forces.

Moscow's ministry of defence said war planes still hit 32 "terrorist" targets over the in Syria, but was markedly down from the one-day tally of 86 targets that Moscow claimed to have hit on Tuesday.

"The intensity of the sorties by our military aviation has slightly decreased in the past day," a statement from the ministry said.

This is linked to the fact that the front line with the terrorist groups of [the Islamic State group] is changing as a result of active offensives from the Syrian armed forces.

The Kremlin usually claims that all its targets are IS, despite the majority of attacks being against rebels in Homs, Hama, Latakia and Aleppo.

Among the targets that were hit was an anti-aircraft missile Moscow claimed was in the hands of IS militants.

Ground offensive

Syrian regime forces backed by Russian air strikes launched a major new offensive in the central province of Homs on Thursday morning, Syria's state media and a monitor said.

State television, citing a military source, said the army had begun a military operation in north and northwest Homs province "with the goal of restoring security and stability to the villages and towns in the area".

It said its forces had taken control of the village of al-Dar al-Kabirah, just north of Homs city.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said Russian planes had launched at least 15 air strikes in the area of fighting, killing at least 10 people, six of them rebels.

The Britain-based monitor reported heavy fighting between regime forces and rebels, particularly south of the rebel-held town of Talbisseh, which lies on the highway between the cities of Homs and Hama.

A military source in Syria told AFP the Homs operation was "linked strategically" to regime operations in neighbouring Hama province in recent days.

"The operation will continue until it reaches its goal of securing northern Homs and severing contacts between militants in Hama and militants in Homs," the source said.

Rebel control

Homs city is controlled by regime forces, with the exception of a single neighbourhood, and Hama city is also under government control. 

But the area between the two provincial capitals, including the highway connecting them, is largely controlled by a patchwork of moderate and Islamist rebel groups and al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front.

The operation in Homs is the latest example of regime forces working with Russian airpower to advance against opposition fighters.

Russia began an air campaign in Syria on September 30, saying it was targeting the Islamic State group and other "terrorists".

But Syrian rebel and their backers say Moscow's firepower has been directed at moderate and Islamist opposition fighters rather than the jihadis.

The regime is also seeking to advance with Russian air support in northern Hama province.

It has also launched a counteroffensive in the Sahl al-Ghab region, a strategically important plain linking Hama, Idlib and Latakia provinces.