NATO head sees ‘troubling escalation’ of Russian activity as Moscow synchronizes moves with Syrian regime
Syria’s army announced Thursday a “vast offensive” to wrest back territory from armed opposition groups, as NATO voiced alarm at escalating Russian military activity in the war-torn country.
Moscow has dramatically stepped up its nine-day-old air war against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, with heavy bombing by warplanes and cruise missile strikes from the Caspian Sea.
A Syrian general said the Russian intervention had weakened the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group and other armed opponents of Assad.
“After the Russian air strikes that weakened the fighting capabilities of Daesh and other terrorist organizations, Syria’s armed forces have maintained the military initiative,” General Ali Abdullah Ayoub said, quoted by state TV.
“Daesh” is an Arabic acronym for IS.
Ayoub added: “Syria’s armed forces began today (Thursday) a vast offensive to defeat the terrorist groups and liberate the areas and villages that have suffered from terrorism and its crimes.”
But according to Washington, more than 90 percent of Russia’s strikes have targeted the moderate opposition.
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