Russia said Tuesday its warplanes flew out of an Iranian airbase for the first time to bomb jihadist groups in Syria, as fighting raged for control of the ravaged city of Aleppo.
The deployment marks a major switch in the bombing campaign the Kremlin launched in September to support Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, as until now Moscow had only flown raids out of its bases in Syria and Russia.
Washington, which heads a separate coalition fighting IS jihadists in Syria and Iraq, said it was warned of the raid ahead of time as required by a mutual agreement on flight safety.
“They did not impact coalition operations in either Iraq or Syria during the time,” US military spokesman Colonel Chris Garver told journalists.
Russia’s defence ministry said long-range warplanes took off from the Hamedan base in western Iran and “conducted a group air strike against targets of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib”.
The strikes destroyed jihadist targets including weapons depots and command centres, “killing a large number of fighters,” Moscow said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air raids on Tuesday against two rebel-held districts in Syria’s second city of Aleppo killed 19 civilians.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said the strikes on Tariq al-Bab and Al-Sakhur, which left three children among the dead, were carried out by either Russian or regime aircraft and had also wounded dozens of people.
Fighting for control of the shattered city, a former economic hub in northwestern Syria, has intensified after regime troops seized control of the last supply route into rebel-held areas in mid-July.
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