Russia’s latest actions raise serious concern about Russian intentions.
Washington: Russian air strikes targeted the base of US-backed Syrian fighters nearby the Jordanian border this past week, reported by US defense officials, forcing the most aggressive response from the Pentagon since Russia started its air campaign over Syria last year.
New photographs released on Friday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based team that has examined the conflict since its launch, reportedly demonstrate the aftermath of the strikes on the base at al-Tanf, a small town close to the borders of Iraq, Syria and Jordan.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, second from left, visits the Hmaymim air base in Syria on Saturday. Photo: Russian Defense Ministry
One of the pictures shows what seems to be the tail section of a RBK-500 cluster munition, a variety of bomb consistently observed being utilized by the Russia air force since the beginning of its mission in Syria. As outlined by the rights group, the strikes murdered 2 persons and injured 4.
“Russian aircraft have not been active in this area of southern Syria for some time, and there were no Syrian regime or Russian ground forces in the vicinity,” stated a senior U.S. defense official, who talked on the condition of anonymity. “Russia’s latest actions raise serious concern about Russian intentions. We will seek an explanation from Russia on why it took this action and assurances this will not happen again.”
The occurrence came as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a surprise visit to the Syrian capital.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shakes hands with Mr Shoigu in Damascus. Photo: Russian Defense Ministry
Russian state press did not disclose any particulars of Saturday’s formerly unannounced visit by Mr Shoigu, who stated he was sent to Damascus by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s Defence Ministry stated Mr Shoigu talked about military-technical cooperation between the 2 countries and the fight in opposition to insurgents.
Talking to reporters on Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stated that the U.S. was trying to “clarify the facts” concerning the occurrence.
In this image made from video and posted online, a Civil Defense worker carries a child after air strikes hit Aleppo, Syria, in April. Photo: Validated UGC via AP video
On Saturday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook stated that the Pentagon had “expressed strong concerns about the attack” in the course of a video conference with the Russian Ministry of Defense.
If Russia did utilize cluster munitions on the US-supported fighters, fallout from the occurrence could develop.
The controversial type of munition continues to be banned by dozens of countries, though not by the United States and Russia. In December 2015, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both posted reports accusing Russia of utilizing cluster munitions “indiscriminately” on populated places and breaking a United Nations resolution.
The Pentagon has asked Russia’s defense ministry, headed by Mr Shoigu (third from left), to explain recent strikes near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan. Photo: Russian Defence Ministry
Russian officials debated the reports and claimed in a defense ministry statement that Russia’s air force doesn’t utilize cluster bombs.
Cluster munitions, developed to deprive enemy forces the utilization of key terrain such as roads and airfields, deploy tennis ball-sized mini explosives over large places. In numerous cases, the highly volatile smaller bombs fail to explode and are frequently responsible for killing civilians who, by their own curiosity or by accident, encounter them.
Based on news accounts, the U.S. military tried to speak with its Russian counterparts on a channel developed exclusively to avoid mid-air occurrences between the 2 countries.
Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict has turned the military situation in favor of the Assad regime. Photo: Russian Defense Ministry
The U.S. efforts failed, and even after rushing F/A-18 attack aircraft, Russia still was able to carry out another bombing run with its complement of Su-34 multi-role fighters, based on a report in the Los Angeles Times.
The United States has frequently criticised the Russian campaign in Syria for propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and not going after terrorist groups like the Islamic State and the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. Lately, on the other hand, as Dr Assad’s forces have made gains in the direction of the IS “capital” in Raqqa and around the city of Palmyra, Russian helicopter gunships and aircraft are already hitting the extremist group more frequently.
It is uncertain what the US-backed Syrian forces in that region are presently executing. Nevertheless, in March, U.S. rocket artillery based in Jordan was employed to support Syrian fighters near al-Tanf who were fighting to take IS positions south of Palmyra.
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