Russian air strikes hit three Syrian provinces

“Russian and Syrian airplanes carried out numerous strikes today against terrorist positions in Hama, Homs and Latakia provinces,” according to a Syrian security source.

The source said the strikes hit several areas in central Homs and Hama provinces, as well as the coastal regime stronghold of Latakia province.

Earlier, Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 27 civilians had been killed in air strikes in Homs province.

The group said the strikes hit Rastan, Talbisseh and Zaafarani in Homs, while the security source said the Russian strikes had hit Rastan and Talbisseh.

Control of Homs province is divided mostly between Syria’s regime and the Islamic State group, which holds the famed city of Palmyra and much of the area east of it.

But none of the areas reportedly targeted by Russian strikes in any of the three provinces is known to have an Islamic State presence.

The areas struck in Homs are controlled mostly by al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, while those hit in Latakia are controlled mostly by a coalition known as the Army of Conquest, which includes al-Nusra.

The areas targeted in Hama are controlled mostly by Islamist and moderate rebel groups.

Church says Russia fighting “holy battle” in Syria
Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church on Wednesday voiced support for Moscow’s decision to carry out air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State group, calling it a “holy battle”.

“The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it,” said the head of the church’s public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin.

Chaplin said the church backed Russia’s decision to deploy its airforce in Syria to attack Islamic State.

“This decision corresponds with international law, the mentality of our people and the special role that our country has always played in the Middle East,” Chaplin said.

A senior Muslim cleric alsobacked the military intervention, saying Syrians are “practically our neighbours.”

“We fully back the use of a contingent of Russian armed forces in the battle against international terrorism,” said Talgat Tadzhuddin, head of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia, in comments to RIA Novosti state news agency.

A council representing Russia’s main religions – Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism – will release a joint statement on Russia’s role in Syria, Chaplin said.

“In this statement, we will support the decision that was taken by our government.”

Russia’s Orthodox Church, after years of repression under the Soviets, has regained much of its influence and built up close ties with the government despite a formal separation of Church and state. President Vladimir Putin is regularly depicted attending services. – AFP

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