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article imageRussia intensifies air strikes in central Syria

By Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi     Oct 10, 2015 in World
Damascus - Russia stated Saturday it increased its air strikes against Islamic State (IS) operatives in Syria. However, Syrian locals said several of the bombs targeted areas of western Syria where IS has no presence.
Russia states it has hit 55 out of 64 IS targets in Syria, but Syrian rebels say Russia has hit mostly non-IS targets. The U.S. says Russia has executed "fundamentally flawed" operations in Syria, which will only exacerbate the civil war.
This most recent offensive strike was the largest assault since Moscow commenced a military campaign in Syria on Sept. 30. Russian officials say the strikes are mainly targeting IS militants.
A group of mainstream rebels and al-Qaida's Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, are operating in Hama and the northern Idlib provinces, and this is where the fighting is concentrated.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government troops have seized control of Atshan in the midst of heavy Russian air strikes in the area. SOHR also reported that troops seized the neighboring Um Hartein Village.
Per the Russian military, the Saturday air strikes in the provinces of Damascus, Hama, Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo destroyed 29 "terrorist" training camps and 23 defensive positions. Reportedly, the destruction of an ammunition depot and two command centers also took place.
Although Raqqa, a city in eastern Syria, is an IS stronghold, militant presence is not strong in the surrounding provinces. The Russian defense ministry summed up its perspective on the air strike campaign:
In the initial stage of our operation, our aircraft destroyed the principal and largest logistical hubs of the IS terrorist group. This has led to a significant reduction in the fighting potential of armed groups, and a reduction in their mobility and their capacity to launch offensives.
Jim Muir, a BBC correspondent in Beirut, said the air strikes appear to be hitting Syrian forces that threaten the Syrian government. He said, "This has led to a significant reduction in the fighting potential of armed groups, and a reduction in their mobility and their capacity to launch offensives."
Russia, a significant ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, maintains its air strikes target IS, but U.S. officials said Russia has focused part of the strikes against U.S. groups and moderate opposition groups to weaken them.
Massive fights also occurred in the al-Ghab, a Hama province, a region that divides areas controlled by Sunni Muslims and the Alwite sect, to which Assad and his followers belong.
More than 250,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war over the last four years, and about half of the country's 23 million people are now refugees. A U.S.-affiliated coalition has been striking IS targets for over a year.
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