Putin’s Airstrikes Are Missing The Mark In Fighting ISIS

Only a tiny fraction of Russian airstrikes are targeting ISIS in an ongoing bombing campaign Moscow vowed to escalate

Russian President Vladimir Putin. — REUTERS
Oct 04, 2015 at 11:32 AM ET

A day after Russia promised to escalate its Syria bombing campaign, Moscow continued to insist it is striking Islamic State targets in areas where the terror group isn’t located.

Russia’s ministry of defense posted two videos to social media on Sunday allegedly showing attacks on ISIS posts near Jisr el-Shughur, a northwestern Syrian city in the administrative district of Idlib. But ISIS withdrew from the Idlib province early last year.

Russia did attack ISIS on Friday, three days into its bombing campaign, when it hit the Syrian city of Raqqa. Still, just one in 20 Russian strikes have targeted Islamic State fighters, the British defense secretary said over the weekend, the AFP reported. He said strikes have instead hit civilian areas and others where the Free Syrian Army is located in an effort to support Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

More Syrian Rebels Claim Civilians Killed In Russian Airstrikes

Russian jets on Sunday also struck areas in and around the town of Talbiseh, according to reports, including one from an activist inside Syria. A video also claims to show smoke billowing in the aftermath of a Russian attack on residential areas in the town. Some rebel groups operate around Talbiseh under the Free Syrian Army, Reuters reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian strikes also hit neighboring Hama, where Islamic State fighters are located. Five people were killed in another airstrike near the city, according to a group of Syrian activists.

The widening bombing campaign and reports of civilian deaths have fanned the flames of outrage among many inside Syria, including a group of 100 members of the Free Syrian Army. Over the weekend, they denounced what they describe as a “Russian and Iranian occupation” in Syria, and vowed to unite “strength, means and expertise” to confront it.

Another rebel group in northern Syria, Ahrar el-Sham, published a video over the weekend showing its fighters allegedly launching rockets on an airport near Syria’s Latakia, where Russian forces are positioned.