Syrian forces make gains under Russian air cover

Government forces capture village of Atshan in Hama province from opposition fighters, activists and Syrian TV say.

    The US accuses Russia of attacking moderate Syrian rebels [AFP]
    The US accuses Russia of attacking moderate Syrian rebels [AFP]

    Syrian government forces have captured a village from rebels in the central province of Hama as part of a ground operation backed by Russian air support.

    Russian warships join Syria war

    Government forces seized Atshan village on Saturday from opposition fighters, state television and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    The observatory reported heavy fighting around Atshan as Syrian government forces sought to push northwest and take a neighbouring hilltop.


    US scrambles to react to Russia strikes on Syria rebels


    With support from Russian air strikes, they appear to be targeting the town of Khan Sheikhun, just across the provincial border in Idlib and on a highway connecting Aleppo and Damascus, the AFP news agency reported.

    The road is cut by rebel forces in several places north of Khan Sheikhun. Hama province has been a key target for Russian air strikes that began on September 30, along with parts of the neighbouring provinces of Latakia and Idlib.

    As rebels groups in Hama tried to fend off the government advance, their comrades in Aleppo province were locked in battle with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, which has made gains in the region.

    US-Russia tensions

    The Russian campaign has prompted concern among US officials who believe that rebel groups allied to Washington are being targeted.

    Moscow has insisted it is bombing ISIL fighters and other "terrorist groups", but sources on the ground have told Al Jazeera the raids were taking place in areas with little ISIL presence.


    Analysis: Is Russia flexing its missiles in Syria?


    US officials believe Russia is trying to weaken groups it supports.

    US Republican Representative Mike Pompeo, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, said the Russians "know their targets, and they have a sophisticated capacity to understand the battlefield situation".

    "They are bombing in locations that are not connected to the Islamic State [ISIL]" group, he told the AP news agency.

    Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, said the US should consider establishing a no-fly zone that allows rebels a safe place from which to operate.

    A no-fly zone would require the US military to be ready to engage in air battles with the Syrian government, which is something it is not prepared to do.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Agencies


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