MOSCOW, Oct 22, (Agencies): The Russian defence ministry said on Thursday its planes had flown 53 sorties and struck 72 militant targets in Syria in the last 24 hours, Russian news agencies reported. The Russian air force hit a range of targets in the Hama, Idlib, Latakia, Aleppo, Damascus, and Deir al-Zor provinces, a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the RIA and TASS news agencies. Meanwhile, video of a Damascus neighborhood filmed by a Russian drone has provided a rare glimpse into the staggering scale of destruction that years of fighting has inflicted around the Syrian capital, seat of President Bashar Assad’s power.
The video shot over the district of Jobar by RTR war correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny on Oct 18 and obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday shows blocks of bombed-out residential buildings, most of them with gaping holes and others with their top floors collapsed. Mushrooms of thick gray smoke billow out as targets are blasted, presumably by Syrian warplanes. Thousands of Syrian army airstrikes and barrel bombs dropped from army helicopters throughout the country’s civil war have reduced entire opposition-held neighborhoods in Syria to rubble.
Most are in central and northern Syria, and some are in the eastern suburbs of Damascus where the rebels have been entrenched for several years. The destruction in Jobar revealed by the drone video is the closest to the Syrian capital, where Assad retains a firm grip on power.
Air strikes in Syria are making it harder to deliver desperately needed aid to civilians suffering from the country’s brutal war, the International Committee for the Red Cross said. “Air bombardment makes it more difficult for us to reach some areas,” said the head of the ICRC’s Middle East and North Africa operations, Robert Mardini. “More use of weapons in any conflict will create additional difficulties in the humanitarian situation,” he told AFP in an interview in Damascus late Wednesday.
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the West of playing a “double game” with terrorist groups in Syria, where a US-led coalition is conducting a bombing campaign. “It’s always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists while simultaneously trying to use some of them to arrange the pieces on the Middle East chess board in one’s own interests,” Putin said at a meeting of political scientists known as the Valdai Club. “It is impossible to prevail over terrorism if some of the terrorists are being used as a battering ram to overthrow undesirable regimes,” Putin said.
Moscow on Thursday denied reports of a Russian strike on a clinic in Syria as “fake”, attacking the Britain-based monitoring group behind the reports as no more reliable than a “pizzeria”. “I want to deny all of this information,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Meanwhile, Russia’s actions in Syria are fuelling the country’s war, which can only be ended with an unconditional exit of President Bashar al-Assad, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said ahead of a meeting with his US, Russian and Turkish counterparts. “We believe that the Russian interference in Syria is very dangerous because it exacerbates the conflict,” Jubeir told reporters in Vienna, adding the Saudis had made this clear to the Russians. Secretary of State John Kerry says the US, Iran, Russia and Europe agree Syria should be united and that Syrians should choose their own future leadership, but he says President Bashar Assad is the one obstacle to doing that.