Russian Jets Target ISIL in Palmyra, Aleppo in "Heaviest Attacks"
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Russian jets hit ISIL targets in the Syrian city of Palmyra and the northern province of Aleppo, Syrian state television and a UK-based group said on Tuesday, in some of the heaviest Russian attacks on the hardline militant group.
The strikes destroyed 20 vehicles and three weapons depots in ISIL-held Palmyra, Syria's state television said, quoting a military source.
In Aleppo, they hit the towns of Al-Bab and Deir Hafer, about 20 km (10 miles) east of a military airport currently besieged by ISIL fighters, Reuters reports.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group tracking Syria's civil war, said the Palmyra strikes killed 15 ISIL fighters.
"It was the heaviest Russian attack on Palmyra," the group's director Rami Abdulrahman said. Across Syria, Russian jets carried out at least 34 air strikes in the last 24 hours, according to the group.
Another four ISIL fighters were killed near Raqqa, the eastern city which has been the group's stronghold in Syria for the last two years.
Al-Manar television said Russian planes also carried out four raids in the Jabal al-Zawiya area in the northwestern province of Idlib.
ISIL militants captured Palmyra in May, an advance which brought them closer to the core of government-held territory in western Syria. It also put the city's Roman-era ruins under the militants' control.
Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said on Sunday ISIL militants blew up Palmyra's Arch of Triumph, one of the most treasured monuments in the 2,000-year-old city. They had already destroyed temples and other antiquities.
Russia has carried out dozens of strikes in Syria since launching its air campaign last Wednesday.
Russia said on Saturday it would step up its air strikes in Syria, where a year-long air campaign by a US-led coalition of Western and Arab forces against ISIL has failed to push back the militants.
Moscow says US has only been pretending to strike ISIL all during the time, with deserts being the primary target of strikes rather than terrorists in Syria.
So far, according to Russian defense ministry statements, it has carried out roughly 20 sorties per day.