07162019What's Hot:

Airstrikes on Aleppo Resume as Russia Begins New Offensive in Syria

Photo

A 15-year-old boy was buried on Monday in the rebel-held town of Douma, Syria, on the outskirts of Damascus, after an airstrike. Credit Abd Doumany/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Russia resumed airstrikes on the besieged rebel-held sections of Aleppo, Syria, on Tuesday, as it began a major new offensive against insurgents battling Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, said it had started “a big operation to deliver massive strikes” against the Islamic State and the Levant Victory Front, formerly known as the Nusra Front, in Idlib and Homs Provinces.

Jets taking off from Russia’s aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, conducted their first strikes on Syria, the Russian military said, noting that its forces were hitting targets in the two provinces. It was unclear whether the strikes on Aleppo were by Russian or by Syrian government warplanes.

The fighting shattered the relative calm that had prevailed in the rebel-held eastern parts of Aleppo for about three weeks.

“Our house is being shaken,” Modar Sheikho, a nurse and antigovernment activist in rebel-held Aleppo, said in a text message. “The warplane is still in the sky.” He shared an audio recording with the roar of a plane and the sound of explosions.

Residents reported airstrikes on at least five Aleppo neighborhoods. The extent of the casualties was unclear, but they appeared to include at least three civilians, including a woman, who were killed in the neighborhood of Masaken Hanano, and 10 others wounded. There were conflicting reports about whether the attack had consisted of barrel bombs, which are usually dropped from helicopters, or an assault by fighter jets.

“Since this morning, until now, dozens of shells and rockets have bombed Aleppo,” Mohammad al-Sheghal, a resident of eastern Aleppo, said in a text message, adding that he believed that the planes were Russian fighter jets.

Mr. Shoigu, at a meeting in Sochi, Russia, with President Vladimir V. Putin, said that a Russian warship, the Admiral Grigorovich, was taking part in this operation, launching cruise missiles against insurgent targets.

“For the first time in the history of Russian Navy, the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier took part in combat, too,” he said. “Today, our Su-33 fighter jets began to work from this warship.”

Mr. Shoigu also briefed Mr. Putin on what he called the use of chemical weapons by the insurgents. The Russian military said that chemical weapons used by insurgents had caused three deaths of Syrian soldiers, and the hospitalization of dozens of soldiers.

On Monday, a Russian fighter jet crashed off the Syrian coast as it tried to return to the Admiral Kuznetsov. The pilot ejected safely and the Russian Defense Ministry blamed a technical failure.

The fighting broke out a day after Mr. Putin spoke to President-elect Donald J. Trump and agreed to cooperate on fighting “international terrorism and extremism,” according to a Kremlin statement. That declaration echoed Mr. Trump’s recent comments that he would try to work with Moscow and with Mr. Assad to fight against the Islamic State in Syria.

The Syrian government has tended to call all its opponents terrorists, and Russia makes little distinction among the different groups fighting Mr. Assad. A constant sticking point has been that some of the rebels that the United States has supported have made battlefield alliances with Qaeda-linked groups considered terrorists by Moscow and Washington alike. The United Nations special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has estimated that perhaps a few hundred of the 10,000 or so fighters inside besieged eastern Aleppo are affiliated with Al Qaeda; rebels say that number is lower and the government says it is higher.

The Obama administration has said that fighting the Islamic State is the priority of the United States, not toppling Mr. Assad — though that is another stated American aim. Under Mr. Obama, the United States government has continued to support some rebel groups that Washington deems not to be extremist, and it has shunned direct cooperation with Moscow and Damascus, contending that their campaign in Syria has been focused less on defeating extremists and more on battling opposition groups fighting Mr. Assad.

The Obama administration has also condemned what it says is indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian government and its Russian allies.

A change in American policy under Mr. Trump, who is to take office in January, could involve a shift toward direct cooperation with Mr. Assad and with Russia against the Islamic State.

Source: NYT > World

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic