MOSCOW --- Russian aircraft have attacked almost 1,100 targets of the Russia-banned Islamic State terrorist group in Syria in 2016, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, chief of the Main Operations Directorate, Russian General Staff, told journalists on Monday.
"Over 10 days of 2016, 311 sorties have been flown and 1,097 targets destroyed in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Deir al-Zor, al-Hasakah, Deraa and al-Raqqa," Rudskoi said.
He stressed that the attacks have been conducted on the Islamic State’s infrastructure, oil wells and refineries, manpower and combat hardware to undermine the combat capabilities of Islamic State militants and provide close air support (CAS) to the Syrian Army and other forces fighting the Islamic State.
The Syrian Army and opposition forces continue their offensive despite adverse weather. The terrorists are suffering heavy losses in manpower and materiel owing to CAS provided by the Russian Aerospace Force.
"The terrorist groups have sustained heavy manpower and materiel losses owing to Russian air strikes," Rudskoi said.
According to him, this enables the Syrian Army and patriotic opposition to carry on advancing despite heavy rain and low temperature.
More than 150 towns and settlements have been liberated in Syria in December and early January owing to Russian air strikes. "Militants have been expelled from 134 towns and settlements in December 2015 and from 10 more in the early days of 2016. The best progress has been made in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Homs and al-Raqqa," the general said.
Owing to the Russian-provided CAS, the Syrian Army has assumed control over several command heights and liberated several key urbanized areas in Latakia.
"Control over a number of command heights has been assumed over the past several days. Six towns and villages have been cleared of militants, including those being key for a further advance toward Mgairiya and Kdin," Rudskoi said. According to him, Syrian governmental forces in Latakia continue to advance northward and eastward and carry on expanding the security area around Kweires airbase in the province of Aleppo.
"The Syrian Army has covered 5 km in the northern direction in the past days alone. Air strikes and the active operations by the Syrian governmental forces have expelled militants from the town of Najara and the settlement of Ayashiyah," the general emphasized.
Rudskoi noted that militants had suffered heavy losses and been driven out of Abu Rvel and Khabar in the southwest of the province.
Reinforcements for the militants regularly sneak into the northeast of Latakia from Turkey. According to Lt. Gen. Rudskoi, the Syrian Army is exploiting success, while the terrorists are sustaining casualties and are forced to retreat.
"Despite the efforts being made by the international community to stem the assistance to the terrorists, reinforcements regularly come to the militants from Turkey into the northeast part of the province of Latakia," the General Staff chief of operations said.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported the detected arrival of terrorist reinforcements from Turkey into Syria in early December 2015. At the time, the ministry stressed that the militants had been receiving manpower and combat hardware from Turkey on a large scale. US President Barack Obama has called upon Ankara to square away the Turkish-Syrian border, across which militants and their supplies continue to move at will.
As was reported previously, the Syrian Army supported by Russian aircraft have mounted a proactive offensive in Latakia, assuming control of an increasing area adjacent to the Turkish-Syrian border.
"As far as we know, militant leaders Bashar Muhammed al-Katur and Muhammed Al-Zamel have been killed," Rudskoi said.
He added that the Syrian troops had advanced 12-15 km in the southeasterly direction, liberated Jarniyah, Ramliyah and Jarjisah and reached the Nahr al-Asi River. "In Homs province, the Syrian Army has liberated the town of Mahin and then reached al-Qaryatayn," the general said.
According to him, the governmental forces are fighting bitterly near Eastern Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus, liberating it of the terrorists block by block. "The best progress has been made toward al-Blaliya, al-Nashabiya and Haush Harabu," Rudskoi noted.
In addition, Syrian troops have entered the town of al-Sheikh Maskin and seized most of it. Russian warplanes have been supporting the offensive mounted on the terrorists by 11 opposition detachments.
"Russian aircraft are supporting the patriotic forces fighting the international terrorists in Syria. Today, our warplanes have delivered air strikes in support of 11 democratic opposition detachments, which overall personnel strength exceeds 7,000 men," Rudskoi said. He emphasized that the Russian Aerospace Force has delivered 19 air strikes in support of the Jaish Ahrar al-Ashair (Army of free Tribes) that is part of the Southern Front of the Syrian Free Army.
The Syrian opposition has seized several towns and settlements in the course of its offensive on the ‘capital’ of the Islamic State, al-Raqqa.
"Supported by Russian aircraft, detachments of the Syrian democratic army led by Aiman Flyat al-Ghanim continue to advance toward ISIL’s capital, al-Raqqa, and have taken al-Salhiyah, Rjeman Alaya, al-Kria and Khadriyat Ayn Issa," Rudskoi said.
The Lions of the East and Qalamoun opposition detachments covered over 50 km as part of their advance on Palmira, having seized the town of Mhasseh. "In the south, the Lions of the East and Qalamoun detachments, supported by Russian aircraft, have advanced toward Palmira by more than 50 km and seized the villages of Zaza and Kessara and the town of Mhasseh," the general said.
The number of democratic opposition detachments willing to join the fighting against the terrorists in Syria has been on the rise.
"The work to pool the efforts of all forces having a stake in the liberation of Syria from international terrorists has led to a steady increase in the number of patriotic opposition detachments," the chief of operations of the General Staff said.
According to him, the Syrian patriotic forces are exploiting success in all directions. Rudskoi said that the Surein and Chelobiya detachments had expanded the militant-free areas on the eastern and western sides of the dyke across the Euphrates River near Mehshiyet al-Tawaheen, Jubb al-Hamzah, Arba’a al-Saghir, al-Judaida and al-Ahmar.
"We are certain that only the joint efforts of the current Syrian government and other patriotic forces can result in a final victory of terrorism," the general concluded.
The Russian Armed Forces launched the operation against the militants of the Russia-banned Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups in Syria on September 30, 2015 by the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Russian air task force deployed to Syria comprised over 50 aircraft, including Sukhoi Su-34 (NATO reporting name: Fullback) and Su-24M (Fencer) tactical bombers, Su-25 (Frogfoot) attack aircraft, Su-30SM (Flanker-H) multirole fighters and Mil Mi-8 (Hip) and Mi-24 (Hind) helicopters.
As of December 25, 2015, the Russian Aerospace Force had logged 5,240 sorties, of which 145 had been flown by the Long-Range Aviation Command. In addition, Russian Navy ships had conducted several missiles attacks from the Caspian and Mediterranean seas, using their Kalibr missile systems. Russia is not intent on joining the ground fighting in Syria.