Putin in Syria: Russia Intensifies Air Strikes

October 26, 2015
Air strike on Talbiseh, Homs province, today. Screenshot from YouTube video

LIVE UPDATES: The Russian Air Force has intensified air strikes in Syria, claiming to have struck 285 targets over the last three days. State media report an unusual number of air sorties today.

The previous post in our Putin in Syria column can be found here.

Russia Intensifies Air Strikes

Reports from Syria say that Russian jets have struck multiple settlements in the Hama, Homs and Aleppo provinces today.

According to the Syrian Local Coordination Committees (LCC), Russian fighters have conducted two air strikes on the town of Dayr Hafir, in ISIS-held territory east of the regime-held Kweres airbase in the Aleppo province. 

To the north of Hama, the LCC reports that Russian jets bombed the rebel-held town of Kafr Zita, which has been one of the Syrian regime’s main targets since the air offensive began on September 30.

Russian state media reported a high level of Russian Air Force activity from the Hmeemeem/Bassel al-Assad air base in Latakia:

The Russian Ministry of Defence today claimed to have bombed 285 targets over the last three days. 
While they did not specify the dates of the attacks, the MOD reported strikes on “ISIS” positions near Salma, in the Latakia province.  

However ISIS has no known presence in this area. Instead, units from the First Coastal Division of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have been documented using US-supplied TOW missiles here.

The MOD also released footage of an air strike on rebel positions in Hama, but no specific location was given:

Activist footage from Talbiseh, north of Homs, showed an air strike this afternoon:

The same source posted graphic footage of the aftermath of a “strange missile” hitting the nearby town of al-Ghantu, which, the LCC reports, killed 5 and wounded dozens. It is unknown whether the missile was fired by Russian or Syrian Army forces.

While some on Twitter have interpreted the footage as evidence of use of chemical weapons, we spoke to CBRN expert Dan Kaszeta, who said that mustard gas, the most likely blister agent to be used in the conflict, was unlikely to have produced the pattern of burns seen in the video. Mustard gas produces blisters on exposed areas of the skin, however the boy’s back and upper arms are the only areas burnt, which raises the possibility that his shirt caught fire as a result of the missile blast.

No intact blisters can be seen, nor do any of the other wounded or dead filmed by sources in al-Ghantu show any sign of blistering. 

Meanwhile Russia’s air offensive seems to have only worsened the dire refugee crisis in the region, with the UNHCR reporting a new peak in number of refugees arriving in Greece this month:

— Pierre Vaux