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Russian air force strikes besieged Syrian city, delivers aid
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Jan 20, 2016

Over 1,000 civilians dead in Russia's Syria strikes: monitor
Beirut (AFP) Jan 20, 2016 - Russian air strikes in Syria have killed more than 1,000 civilians since they were launched nearly four months ago, a monitor said Wednesday.

The raids, which started on September 30, have killed 1,015 civilians, including more than 200 children, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The group, which relies on a network of sources on the ground for its reports, said the strikes had also killed 893 Islamic State group jihadists and 1,141 other opposition militants, including members of Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

The total toll of 3,049 represents an increase of nearly 700 deaths in just three weeks.

Russia is a staunch ally of the Syrian government and has coordinated its strikes with Damascus, saying it is targeting IS and other "terrorist" groups.

But activists and rebels accuse Moscow of focusing more on moderate and Islamist opposition fighters than IS.

Russia has previously denounced accusations that its raids have killed civilians as "absurd" and said claims by rights groups of such deaths were made up of "cliches and fakes".

The Observatory says it differentiates between strikes by Russia, US-led coalition warplanes and the Syrian regime based on the type of aircraft and the munitions used.

A coalition led by Washington has also been carrying out strikes against IS in Syria since September 2014, but it does not coordinate its raids with Damascus.

Those strikes have killed 4,256 people since they began, among them 322 civilians, including over 90 children, according to the Observatory.

The monitor said the strikes had also killed 3,787 IS fighters and nearly 150 militants from other extremist groups including Al-Nusra.

The Russian military said Wednesday it had bombed the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor after a deadly Islamic State group assault saw jihadists tighten their siege of the provincial capital.

"The Russian operation conducted military operations only in the provinces of Latakia and Deir Ezzor in light of unfavourable weather conditions and to avoid risks for the civilian population," Russian news agencies quoted military spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying.

Konashenkov added that Russian warplanes had struck 57 targets in 16 combat sorties in these two provinces in the past day.

The military spokesman also said Russia had delivered 50 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Deir Ezzor on Friday.

More than 40 tonnes of humanitarian cargo were delivered this week to the blockaded eastern Syrian city, the defence ministry said Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, also reported heavy Russian strikes in Deir Ezzor near to where IS has launched a bloody offensive on the provincial capital.

It said at least 13 people were killed in strikes on three locations in Deir Ezzor, with two children among the dead.

It added that heavy clashes were continuing between regime and IS fighters.

The monitor said IS jihadists had killed at least eight members of the pro-regime forces on Wednesday, including six who had been captured the previous day. At least one was beheaded.

Another seven were killed in fighting with the extremists, the monitor said.

IS launched its offensive on Deir Ezzor city on Saturday, with dozens of its fighters carrying out suicide bomb attacks as they stormed government positions.

The jihadists now control 60 percent of the city, intensifying a siege that had already caused fear and hardship for the roughly 200,000 people still living there.

Around 70 percent of the city's remaining residents are women and children, according to the United Nations.

The Observatory said late on Tuesday that IS had released 270 of more than 400 civilians it had abducted during its initial assault on Deir Ezzor.

The Russian military said Tuesday its jets had struck 579 "terrorist targets" in 157 combat sorties in the Aleppo, Raqa, Latakia, Homs, Hama and Deir Ezzor provinces.

Russia began an aerial campaign in support of Syria's government on September 30.

The Observatory said Wednesday that over 3,000 people had been killed in the strikes so far, including 1,015 civilians.

It reported at least seven people, including three children, were killed on Wednesday in apparent Russian strikes in Idlib province, in northwest Syria, which is under rebel control.

Moscow has dismissed allegations of civilian deaths in its strikes as "absurd".

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Previous Report
Russia has begun 'humanitarian operations' in Syria: defence ministry
Moscow (AFP) Jan 15, 2016
Russia said Friday it had launched "humanitarian operations" in Syria where it is carrying out a bombing campaign against the Islamic State group, claiming peaceful life was slowly returning to the war-torn country. "The inhabitants are gradually coming back to Syrian cities and peaceful life is returning," General Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian General Staff official, told reporters. ... read more

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