The armed Syrian opposition group Jaysh al Islam's commander Zahran Alloush was killed on Friday in Damascus's countryside, along with four other senior military commanders in a Russian air strike in the capital's suburbs.
Syrian Pro-opposition sources said that Russian air strikes targeted the group's headquarter in al Marj, in the eastern Ghouta region of Damascus. Eastern Ghouta which is administrated by Jaysh al Islam has been besieged by regime forces since the beginning of war in Syria in 2011.
Opposition sources said that Alloush's deputy and Jaysh al Islam’s spokesman were among the killed in the Russian air attack.
— Hassan Ridha (@sayed_ridha) December 25, 2015
Before setting up Jaysh al Islam, Alloush had founded Liwa al Islam, or the Brigade of Islam with his father Abdallah, a Salafist Syrian cleric based in Saudi Arabia.
Alloush was ideologically at odds with DAESH and Al Qaeda, espousing a more moderate branch of Islam.
The regime and Russian warplanes have been conducting heavy bombardments on the area where regime forces have previously used chemical weapons targeting civilians in 2013.
Jaysh al Islam, which was established in September 2013, is the most powerful and effective Syrian opposition with thousands of well trained fighters.
Since September 30 Russia has been launching air strikes in support of the Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad. The Russian air strikes have targeted assemblies of Assad opponents, including the western trained moderate opposition, killing hundreds of civilians and destroying facilities in the western rebel-held areas.
Activists say that they distinguished the aircrafts -Syrian, Russian and US-led coalition- by the type of planes and ordnance used and whether the planes took off from inside the country or not. Furthermore the Russian air strikes conduct its strikes from higher altitudes, while the regime mostly drops barrel bombs from lower altitudes.
War in Syria
The war in Syria started in 2011, after peaceful demonstrators demanded freedom and better living conditions. However they were suppressed by the Syrian regime, which Russia and Iran support.
The Syrian conflict paved way for DAESH terrorist group to emerge and declare a self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq in 2014, with the Syrian city of Raqqa as its capital. A US-led coalition launched an aerial campaign to fight the group in September 2014.
The war in Syria has so far claimed the lives of over 250,000 people according to UN estimates, while the SOHR says that the official death toll exceeds 350,000.
Approximately 5 million Syrians have taken refuge in neighbouring countries Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, with Turkey hosting the largest group of over 2 million in camps and scattered through Turkish cities.
Thousands are still pushing towards EU countries, causing a global refugee crisis, urging for an immediate solution in Syria.