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Russia pounds IS targets in Syria

French navy technicians work near a French Rafale aircraft on the flight deck on the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean sea yesterday. —AFP
French navy technicians work near a French Rafale aircraft on the flight deck on the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean sea yesterday. —AFP

BEIRUT: Russia has bombed the Islamic State group in the heaviest strikes in eastern Syria since the war began. The United Nations, meanwhile, passed a motion calling for action against IS, a week after 130 people were killed in Paris, sparking international condemnation and fears of similar attacks elsewhere in Europe. Russian and Syrian warplanes carried out more than 70 strikes in eastern Deir Ezzor province on Friday, killing at least 36 people including 10 children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Britain-based group said the raids hit several cities and towns as well as three oilfields, and were the heaviest bombardment of the region since the conflict began in March 2011. Most of Deir Ezzor province, including large parts of its capital, is held by IS.

The regime still controls the military airport and several smaller areas. Yesterday, fighting raged between IS and regime forces around the airport, a day after clashes killed 30 people, 22 of them IS militants, according to the Observatory. Russia began its bombing campaign in support of President Bashar Al-Assad on September 30, and pledged to step up the strikes after IS claimed that a bomb downed a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month, killing all 224 people on board

Rebels Capture IS Villages
On Friday, Russia said it had fired cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea and claimed to have killed 600 fighters in recent strikes. The Observatory says Russian strikes have killed more than 1,300 people since they began, a third of them civilians. It says 381 IS fighters have been killed in the strikes, along with 547 rebels from other groups including Al-Qaeda affiliate Al- Nusra Front.

It said 403 civilians have been killed, among them 97 children. Russia’s military involvement in Syria has stirred tensions with Turkey, which backs the uprising against Assad and has accused Moscow of failing to respect its border and airspace in the campaign. The Turkish state-run Anatolia news agency reported yesterday that Syrian Turkmen rebels seized from IS the villages of Harjaleh and Dalha in northern Aleppo province near the Turkish border.

It said 70 IS jihadists were killed in the battle for the villages which the Turkmen captured with air support from American and Turkish warplanes. Turkish officials have said a major joint air operation against IS with the United States was planned, with Turkmen forces fighting on the ground. They said the aim is to clear of jihadists a 98-km stretch of Syria’s northern border with Turkey still controlled by IS.—AFP

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