Russia said to send more warplanes to Syria

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Spl. Correspondent Manju Shukla
Date  01/10/2016

Fighting continued to intensify a week into a new Russian-backed Syrian government offensive to capture rebel-held eastern Aleppo and crush the last urban stronghold of a revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that began in 2011.

Moscow and Assad spurned a U.S.-Russian brokered ceasefire agreed to this month and launched attacks on rebel-held areas in Aleppo in potentially the most decisive battle in the Syrian civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone for a third straight day, with the top Russian diplomat saying Moscow was ready to consider more ways to normalize the situation in Aleppo.

But Lavrov criticized Washington`s failure to separate moderate rebel groups from those the Russians call terrorists, which had allowed forces led by the group formerly known as the Nusra front to violate the U.S.-Russian truce agreed on Sept. 9.

The United States made clear on Friday that it would not, at least for now, carry through on the threat it made on Wednesday to halt the diplomacy if Russia did not take immediate steps to halt the violence.

"This is on life support, but it`s not flat-lined yet," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. "We have seen enough that we don`t want to definitively close the door yet."

In a 40-minute discussion with Syrians, diplomats and others on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York last week, Kerry said the administration had failed to make any threat of military force that give him leverage with Russia.



Western countries accuse Russia of war crimes, saying it has targeted civilians, hospitals and aid deliveries in recent days to crush the will of 250,000 people trapped inside the besieged rebel-held sector of Aleppo, Syria`s biggest city before the war.

Moscow and Damascus say they have targeted only militants.

Russia joined the war a year ago, tipping the balance of power in favor of Assad, who is also supported by Iranian ground forces and Shi`ite militia from Lebanon and Iraq.

The Kremlin said on Friday there was no time frame for its military operation in Syria. The main result of Russian air strikes over the past year is that "neither Islamic State, nor al Qaeda nor the Nusra Front are now sitting in Damascus", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russia`s Izvestia newspaper reported that a group of Su-24 and Su-34 warplanes had arrived at Syria`s Hmeymim base.

The Su-25 is an armored twin-engine jet that was battle-tested in the 1980s during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. It can be used to strafe targets on the ground, or as a bomber.

Russia`s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment. The U.S. State and Defense Departments declined comment on the Izvestia report.

Syrian government forces and rebels fought battles on Friday in the city center and north of Aleppo, where government troops had recaptured a Palestinian refugee camp on Thursday that already had changed hands once since the start of the attack.


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