Russia claimed Friday that its air force bombed multiple positions held by the Islamic State in Raqqa, a city known as the de facto capital of the jihadi group in Syria.
Amidst complaints that Russian forces continue to bomb U.S.-backed rebels in the region, Moscow said it struck an “IS training camp” in Raqqa on Friday. However, Syrian opposition groups claim that the Russian strikes are killing innocents.
The United States, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia were three of the seven countries who released a joint statement condemning Russian military action in the region.
“These military actions constitute a further escalation and will only fuel more extremism and radicalisation,” the statement read. “We call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians.”
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov continues to insist that Moscow is only targeting the Islamic State, the Nusra Front (an Al Qaeda offshoot), and “other terrorist groups,” reports AFP.
In a statement released on Friday, Russia’s defense ministry said a recent round of strikes targeted ISIS’s “command point of action.”
“The infrastructure used to train terrorists was completely destroyed,” the Russian defense ministry claimed.
And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has backed the Russian claims, stating that Moscow jets did indeed neutralize twelve Islamic State members in Raqqa, the report states.
But the Observatory also claimed that women and children have been killed in the Russian strikes, and that Moscow has now taken out 36 innocent civilians in its air raids.
“Four civilians, including a child and a woman, were killed in raids conducted by Russian military aircraft,” a SOHR statement claimed. “Three other civilians, including a girl and a woman, were killed in bombing by these planes of the village of Habeet.”
Alexei Pushkov, the leader of Russia’s foreign affairs committee in its lower house of parliament, heckled the US-led anti-ISIS campaign for its supposed lack of effectiveness.
Although there have been more than 2,500 air strikes against jihadi fighters in the region, the strikes have failed to stop the Islamic State’s aggression in the region, Pushkov noted.
“I think it’s the intensity that is important. The US-led coalition has pretended to bomb Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State) for a year, without results,” he told Europe 1 radio. “If you do it in a more efficient way, I think you’ll see results.”
As for critiques that Russia was simply there to prop up the Assad regime, and had focused the vast majority of its initial attacks on actors other than ISIS, Pushkov responded, “The main target are the Daesh groups situated closest to Damascus.”