Syrian regime initiates second Russian-backed offensive

Syrian regime announces a large offensive is underway to “Liberate areas from terrorism”, while Russian warplanes continue to pound opposition targets

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A man comforts a woman whose relatives were killed, at a site hit by what activists were airstrikes carried out by Russian air force in Maasran town, in the southern countryside of Idlib, Syria October 7, 2015

The Syrian regime armed forces chief of staff said in comments published in state media that a "big attack" has started on Thursday with the backing of Russian forces inside Syria, but did not specify where exactly will that attack take place.

The operation aims to "liberate areas and towns which have suffered from terrorism," Lieutenant General Ali Abdullah Ayoub said according to Syrian state television.

Meanwhile, Russian warplanes, and most recently, warships, have continued to boost the Syrian regime operations inside Syria, since September 30.

Russia using cluster bombs in Syria

Accusations of the possibility Russia using cluster bombs in its presence in Syria surfaced days after the beginning of the operations. Eyewitnesses and locals suggest that the Russian aircrafts dropped bombs that later caused multiple explosions on the ground.

A civil defence member gathers unexploded cluster bombs that activists say were fired by the Russian Air Force at Maasran town, in the southern countryside of Idlib, Syria October 7, 2015 [Reuters]

Photos and videos recorded and uploaded on social media showed Russian warplanes dropping bombs in Kafr Halab in Aleppo and Idlib. The bomb caused multiple detonations on the ground, driving smoke consistent with the use of cluster munition.

Cluster bombs are prohibited under international laws and standards, however past accusations against the Syrian regime include using chemical weapons as well.

A civil defence member looks at one of the cluster bombs that activists say were fired by the Russian air force at Maasran town, in the southern countryside of Idlib, Syria October 7, 2015 [Reuters]

Joint operations between Syrian regime and Russia

On Wednesday, the first joint massive ground assault by Bashar al Assad’s regime, with allied militias and the Russian air support has taken place.

The operation has exclusively targeted Syrian opposition positions in the West and North. Wednesday’s massive wave of Russian air strikes directed at Hama and Idlib in the West, and reportedly Aleppo too in the North, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Wednesday.

Over 40 air strikes showered over Idlib and Hama on Wednesday only, SOHR confirmed on Thursday. The number of civilian casualties as a result of Wednesday’s Russian air strikes yet to be confirmed in Idlib and Hama. However, the Orient news says 9 civilians died in Idlib because of the Russian pounding.

Civil defence members and civilians search for survivors under the rubble of a site hit by what activists said were cluster bombs dropped by Russian air force in Maasran town, south of Idlib, Syria October 7, 2015 [Reuters]

According to media reports, dozens were killed in the Russian air strikes that targeted Aleppo on both Wednesday and Tuesday. Russian air strikes concentrated on rebel-held neighbourhood of Rashedeen, on the outskirts of Aleppo.

And on early Thursday, the Syrian-Russian joint forces, backed by the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, launched another grand offensive against rebels in Al Ghab plain in western Syria, SOHR and rebels on the ground told Reuters.

"Thirteen regime forces were killed. There are only seven confirmed dead among the (rebel) fighters, but the number is certainly more than seven," he said.

Russia and Iran have been backing the Syrian regime since the beginning of the four-year war in Syria which claimed more than 250,000 Syrians, whilst, half of the country’s population are displaced internally or in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and in Europe, where more than 350,000 Syrians have claimed asylum.

TRTWorld and agencies