Russia defends Syrian air strikes
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has defended his country’s air strikes in Syria, saying they were targeting the same “terrorist” groups as the US-led coalition. He rejected suggestions that Russian action was to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russian jets carried out a second day of air strikes in Syria on Thursday.
But a US official said Russia had been isolated by its “indiscriminate” strikes against the Syrian opposition.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that if Russia was genuinely focused on fighting Islamic State (IS) it would contribute to the US-led coalition.
The strikes risk drawing Russia more deeply into the conflict, he added.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Iranian troops have arrived in Syria in the last 10 days and will soon join government forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies in a major ground offensive backed by Russian air strikes, two Lebanese sources told Reuters.
“The (Russian) air strikes will in the near future be accompanied by ground advances by the Syrian army and its allies,” said one of the sources familiar with political and military developments in the conflict.
“It is possible that the coming land operations will be focused in the Idlib and Hama countryside,” the source added.
The two sources said the operation would be aimed at recapturing territory lost by President Bashar al-Assad’s government to rebels