Assad forces make ‘significant gains’ in Syria
Syrian forces backed by Hezbollah militants from Lebanon are said to have made significant advances against rebels after heavy Russian air strikes.
Government gains are being reported in Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces.
Russia says its aircraft carried out more than 60 missions over Syria in the past 24 hours, and that the Islamic State group was its main target.
But the Russian strikes appear to have impacted heavily on rebels fighting both the government and IS.
The main battlefront is currently close to the key highway that links the capital Damascus with other major cities, including Aleppo, and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are believed to be seeking to cut off rebels in Idlib.
Before Russia’s intervention, Idlib had all but fallen to a rebel coalition that had been seriously threatening Mr Assad and his heartland as well as fighting IS, BBC Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher reports.
The government gains were reported both by Damascus and opposition activists.
Russia says its strikes, which began on 30 September, have been closely co-ordinated with the Syrian government. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that the strikes were the execution of “previously drawn plans”.
“We persistently conducted reconnaissance, for a long period, from space and from the air,” he told the Rossiya 24 news channel.
The Kunduz strike killed at least 22 people
Rebel fighters have been digging in in Hama province in the face of the government advance.