Russian warships in the Mediterranean Sea fired cruise missiles at targets near Aleppo on Friday, a further sign of Moscow’s broadening military effort in Syria days after it began to fly bombing missions from an airbase in Iran.
Russian air power had helped Assad regime make steady advances against the rebels since Moscow’s intervention a year ago, but a recent advance for the rebels in Aleppo has changed the balance pf power and Russia started using more fire power.
Russia’s three cruise missile launches were its first against targets in Syria from the Mediterranean, with previous ones made from its Caspian Sea fleet. On Tuesday Russian bombers began flying missions in Syria from Hamedan air base in Iran.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the strikes targeted the Islamist militant group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, known as the Nusra Front until it broke formal ties with al Qaeda last month before playing a big role in the sudden rebel advances in Aleppo.
The plight of civilians in Aleppo has been aggravated in besieged areas by dire shortages of basic goods, leading the World Food Programme to warn of a “nightmarish” situation.
Daily airstrikes in Aleppo left hundreds civilians dead, including many women and children, and thousands injured.
In Darayya, a suburb of Damascus, rebels and a war monitor said the Syrian army’s helicopters had dropped incendiary barrel bombs early on Friday, putting the opposition-held town’s only hospital out of action.
Assad regiem’s forces have bombed the last remaining civilian hospital in the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, according to activists.
“The hospital … which was providing a humanitarian service to the civilians in the city is being targeted by internationally banned weapons. Everyone is standing by silently and watching,” said one doctor from Darayya in a video purported to have been shot outside the hospital shortly after it was hit.
The hospital was the only medical facility available to 8,000 civilians in the besieged suburb, which was hit with incendiary bombs for three straight days earlier this week, according to the local council.
Last week, Assad regime and Russians used the napalm cylinder bombs in attacking residential areas.
Darayya has been under siege since 2012, and bombed everyday by Assad regime. It is called by Syrian activists “The capital of barrel bombs.”
On Thursday Russia, Assad’s most powerful military ally, said it supported a proposal for a weekly 48-hour pause in fighting in Aleppo to allow aid to reach the besieged areas and that it was ready to start the first one next week.