Russian state television says Defense Ministry Sergei Shoigu in a phone call to his Israeli counterpart has said Israel is responsible for the shooting down of a Russian military aircraft over Syria.
The Russian military said on Tuesday that the reconnaissance aircraft was brought down by a Syrian missile over the Mediterranean late on Monday, killing all 15 people on board. It said the plane was caught in the crossfire as four Israeli fighters attacked targets in northwestern Syria.
The Syrian state media says the series of explosions was caused by an electrical fault at an ammunition depot in the area.
The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) and Syria state television reported a “military source denies the exposure of the Mazzeh Airport to any Israeli aggression and the sounds of explosions that were heard resulted from explosion of an ammunition depot near the airport because of electrical failure.”
At least 39 people – including 12 children – have been killed in a blast that brought down a building in Syria’s mainly rebel-held north-western province of Idlib, reports say.
The building in the Sarmada town is said to have contained munitions belonging to an arms trafficker.
Dozens of people are still missing, a monitor and correspondents say.
Idlib is the last major rebel-held area, and is expected to be the next target for Syrian armed forces.
In recent months, the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, has made major advances in its offensive against a number of rebel and jihadist groups across Syria.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s military says Iranian forces based in neighboring Syria fired about 20 projectiles at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights.
Air raid sirens went off shortly after the Syrian state news agency and activists reported rocket fire from Israel into southern Syria just before midnight Wednesday.
The Israeli Defense Forces said it believes the rockets were launched by special forces in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says aircraft flew over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, adjacent to southern Syria. There are no immediate reports of airstrikes.
The military compound that was hit is located about 10 miles south of the Syrian capital city of Damascus, western military sources said.Syrian TV reported that it was an Israeli airstrike and that Syrian air defense systems shot down two missiles.
The attack happened in Kisweh, according to the official news agency SANA, about an hour after President Trump’s announcemed that he would be pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal.
The order from the Kremlin came as the United Nations was trying to revive peace talks to stop the conflict, which has created a humanitarian catastrophe.
Vladimir Putin has reportedly added drones, attack helicopters and aircraft to its force in Syria in recent weeks
Russia rapidly increased its aerial attack capabilities in Syria over the weekend, U.S. officials told Agence France-Presse on Monday, including 28 combat planes that have been sighted at a new Russian air base in the Syrian province of Latakia.
The fleet includes 12 SU-24 attack aircraft, 12 SU-25 ground attack aircraft and four Flanker fighter jets, the officials told the news agency on condition of anonymity. An influx of new weaponry was also reported separately by the New York Times and CNN.
One of the officials told AFP of the additional presence of around 20 combat helicopters and said Russian forces are flying surveillance drones over the Middle Eastern nation’s airspace.
According to the Times, Russia’s military presence in Syria also includes at least three surface-to-air missiles, nine tanks and around 500 marines.
“The equipment and personnel just keep flowing in,” another official told the Times. “They were very busy over the weekend.”
Reports of the new aircraft emerged soon after U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday. They discussed concerns that the two forces might inadvertently clash with each other as a U.S.-led coalition continues its air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militant group.
The U.S. and other Western powers fundamentally differ with Moscow on the role of Syria’s President Bashar Assad, believing he must step down in order for his country to emerge from civil war. Russia, on the other hand, is one of the Assad regime’s most prominent allies and has defended its military assistance to the Syrian army.
U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said during a press briefing on Monday that he was “not in a position to independently verify” the reports of Russian aircraft and drones.
“If Russia looks to play a constructive role against [ISIS], that’s one thing, but if what they’re doing is, in fact, propping up the Assad regime, then that’s an entirely different issue altogether,” Kirby added, “because it is the Assad regime that has been a magnet for extremists inside Syria.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 56 soldiers were killed in the Abu Zuhour air base that was captured by the Nusra Front and other militant groups on Sept. 9.
Mohammed Kanaan, an activist based in Syria, said the Nusra Front shot dead 45 soldiers, adding that the “executions” took place Friday on a runway in the air base.
The capture of the Abu Zuhour base was the latest in a series of setbacks for President Bashar Assad in Syria’s bitter civil war, now in its fifth year. Syria’s embattled president has acknowledged the losses, saying the army has had to relinquish some areas in the north to be able to better defend core areas seen as more critical to the government.
The capture of Abu Zuhour also made Idlib the second of Syria’s 14 provinces to completely fall out of Syrian army control. Earlier this year, militant groups captured the provincial capital, also called Idlib, as well as other towns and villages.
The Observatory said the latest killings raise to 71 the number of government forces that have been killed since the capture of the air base.
The Nusra Front, which is a top rival of the Islamic State group, and other Islamic insurgents now control nearly all of Idlib province, except for the predominantly Shiite villages of Foua and Kfarya, which pro-government militiamen hold.
Nusra Front fighters and their allies began a large offensive against the two villages on Friday, deploying at least seven suicide bombers and firing hundreds of shells into Foua and Kfarya, according to the activists and the Nusra Front’s Twitter account.
The Nusra Front released photos from the outskirts of the villages showing what it said were fortifications that were captured by the militants.
A battle between Islamic State group jihadists and rebels for control of an opposition stronghold in northern Syria has killed at least 47 fighters, a monitor said today.
Twenty Islamist and other rebel fighters were killed in the clashes in Aleppo province throughout yesterday, along with 27 IS jihadists, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The fighting centred on the town of Marea, a key rebel bastion that IS has been trying to capture for months.
The Observatory said fighting was ongoing around the town, which rebel forces still control, as well in villages in the surrounding area.
Marea is one of the most significant rebel-held towns in northern Aleppo and lies on a key supply route running to the Turkish border.
IS has targeted the town for months, seeking to expand westwards from territory it already holds in Aleppo province.
Last week, IS advanced in the area, seizing five villages from rebel forces around Marea after allegations it had used a chemical agent, possibly mustard gas, in its attacks.
The IS advances came despite an agreement between Turkey and the United States to work on the establishment of an IS-free zone in northern Aleppo.
In recent days, the US-led air campaign fighting IS in Syria has carried out strikes against the group near Marea, according to the Pentagon.
More than 240,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with peaceful anti-government protests.
It has evolved into a complex multi-front war, with regime and rebel forces as well as Kurds and jihadists involved in the fighting.