Putin in Syria: Russian Jets Strike ISIS For First Time But Continue Wider Campaign Against Other Rebel Groups

October 2, 2015
Russian Su-34 bomber lands after sorties in Syria. Photo: Aleksandr Kots and Dmitry Steshin

LIVE UPDATES: The Russian Air Force has reportedly struck ISIS-held areas for the first time since bombing began on September 30. However the majority of settlements struck by bombs over the last 24 hours lie outside ISIS-controlled territory.

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

Russian Major General Lists “ISIS” Targets Hit By Russian Airstrikes, But Has ISIS Actually Been Hit?

Russia’s air force has made 18 sorties and hit 12 ISIS targets, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, Defense Ministry spokesman told reporters today, according to TASS.

Konashenkov reported (translation by The Interpreter):

“10 air flights were made during the night. Surgical strikes were delivered on eight targets of terrorists.”

He added that Su-24Ms, Su-25s, and Su-34s were used in the attack. Konashenko claimed that ISIS command centers in Dar Ta’izzah (in the province of Aleppo) were destroyed.

“Su-25 attack planes delivered a strike on an ISIS field camp in the area of Maarrat al Nouman, a province of Idlib. Bunkers were totally destroyed along with weapons and fuel and lubricants depots. On October 1, Su-34s struck an ISIS training camp in the area of the population center of Maadan Jadid and a camouflaged command center in the area of Kasrat al Faraj, southwest of the city of Raqqa.”

The general claimed that the infrastructure used by the terrorists for training was completely destroyed.

“Using these type of planes we can deliver strikes on targets of the ISIS group of terrorists throughout Syrian territory. I would like to emphasize that the Russian Su-34s made surgical strikes on targets from an altitude of more than 5,000 meters. The onboard targeting and navigation equipment on these planes enables us to ensure a strike on any ground target with absolute precision.”

He added that this was confirmed by the destruction of an ISIS facility in Raqqah yesterday.

While Kasrat al-Faraj is held by ISIS, it is not a major base or near a major population center. Maadan Jadid is about 70 kilometers east of al-Raqqah, between that city and Deir ez-Zor, deep within ISIS-controlled territory. According to the Institute for the Study of War, there is a high probability that Russia also hit this location yesterday. So far, however, there is no evidence that al-Raqqah proper has been hit.

The other locations mentioned above however —  Dar Ta’izzah and Maarrat al-Nouman — are free of ISIS fighters, as was described in the previous update below.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, James Miller

Russia Is Using Old, Dumb Bombs, Making Syria Air War Even More Brutal

Russia Is Using Old, Dumb Bombs, Making Syria Air War Even More Brutal

On Sept. 30, Russian warplanes launched their first air raids in Syria, striking eight targets around Homs, north of Damascus. In a second day of strikes on Oct. 1, Moscow's planes hit another five targets, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The Kremlin insists it's hitting militants from the so-called Islamic State.

View full page →

Oct 02, 2015 23:12 (GMT)

Russian Jets Strike ISIS For First Time But Continue Wider Campaign Against Other Rebel Groups
Russia’s air offensive in Syria has entered its third day with the first reports of air strikes on areas actually controlled by ISIS.

The Russian Ministry of Defence has today released video footage from a Su-34 strike on targets south-west of ISIS-held Raqqa:

However the majority of settlements targeted remain outside ISIS control, with the Russian MOD announcing strikes near Darat Izza, Maarat al-Numan, Habit and Kafr Zita.

Over the last 24 hours, the Russians claim to have conducted 18 combat sorties against 12 targets.

MOD videos of Su-25 and then Su-24 strikes near Maarat al-Numan:

There are reports that the strikes on Habit killed three and injured 12:

At the time of writing, there are already reports of further air strikes:

AFP reports that Alexei Pushkov, head of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, told France’s Europe 1 radio station today that the air campaign could last for three to four months. 

“There is always a risk of getting bogged down but in Moscow they’re talking about three to four months of operations,” Alexei Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee of Russia’s lower house of parliament, told France’s Europe 1 radio.

Pushkov said more than 2,500 air strikes by the US-led coalition in Syria had failed to inflict significant damage on the jihadist Islamic State group, but Russia’s campaign would be more intensive to achieve results.

“I think it’s the intensity that is important. The US-led coalition has pretended to bomb Daesh (another name for Islamic State) for a year, without results.

“If you do it in a more efficient way, I think you’ll see results,” he said.

There was a similar message from Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of Russia’s National Defence journal, who spoke to Komsomolskaya Pravda last night.

The Interpreter translates:

The active phase of the operation, which has been painstakingly prepared, has begun. I think that it will take from 3 to 6 months, to be able to make a difference. To break the Islamic State’s back. Our infantry will not be needed. The Syrians are absolutely battle-worthy: they’ve been fighting with ISIS for 4 years already, and they maintain control of 30% of the territory, in which almost all of the civilian population is located. Damascus was lacking our aircraft and intelligence information.

Komsomolskaya Pravda‘s star propagandists Dmitry Steshin and Aleksandr Kots – familiar faces from the war in Ukraine – are embedded with the Russian Air Force at the Bassel al-Assad airport near Latakia. Nor are they the only Russian media assets deployed for the media blitz:

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the Syrian Air Force has conducted its own air strikes on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma for the third day in a row:
— Pierre Vaux