Russian warships have fired six missiles on ISIS targets in Syria, state media reports, in Moscow’s latest show of force as its tensions with Washington heighten over the war.
The Admiral Essen and Admiral Grigorovich frigates, along with the Krasnodar submarine, fired the cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea, the Defense Ministry said in a statement posted to state news agency RIA.
ISIS command points and a weapons and ammunition depot were destroyed in Hama province of Syria, according to RIA. The ministry also said Turkey and Israel were informed about the missile launches, but made no mention of informing the US, which is leading an international coalition against ISIS in the country.
The strike comes amid tensions after a US warplane downed Syrian jet, the first time the US has shot down a manned aircraft since 1999.
Russia is the most powerful ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and the rare air-to-air encounter prompted Moscow to suspend a de-confliction hotline with the US-led coalition, designed to prevent any accidents in the skies over Syria.
The Syrian conflict has transformed from a civil war to a more complex battle involving international players and their proxies. While international players are focused on targeting ISIS, many are maneuvering to either prop up or depose Assad and his regime.
Iran, which also supports Assad, on Sunday fired missiles at ISIS targets in Syria, the first such strike carried out by Tehran on another country in three decades. It is a major escalation of Iran’s role in the war.
Russia this week said it thinks one of its airstrikes may have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi, a figure who has evaded international forces for years. But US officials told CNN that the US has not confirmed Russia’s claim.
US downs Syrian jet
The US downed the Syrian warplane after a series of clashes between pro-regime troops and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the US backs to fight ISIS.
According to the Pentagon, Syrian regime soldiers equipped with tanks, artillery and technical vehicles were advancing on the US-backed rebels’ position, forcing the coalition to use the de-confliction hotline with the Russians in an attempt to turn the regime troops back.
When that proved unsuccessful, coalition aircraft performed “strafing runs” near the regime positions, which halted their advance.
The Russian Ministry of Defense called the downing of the plane “a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic” and “military aggression.”
Russia has stopped using the de-confliction hotline, a US official said, and Moscow warned that aircraft operating where the shoot-down occurred would be considered “air targets” for its forces in Syria.
But the downing did not appear to hamper Syria, which attempted a similar bombing Tuesday, according to US military officials.
The US official told CNN that another Syrian Su-22 fighter made an approach Tuesday in what the military assessed as a possible bombing run on the SDF near the same area.
The official said that coalition aircraft made a show of force and conducted a warning maneuver, and the Syrian fighter jet then aborted its trajectory and left the area.