Russia’s air force has struck positions held by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Syria from more than 600 miles away using its most modern cruise missile technology.
Tu-95MS long-range strategic bombers departed Wednesday from an airfield in the southern Russian city of Engels equipped with the latest Kh-101 long-range cruise missiles and successfully targeted an ISIS command center and three weapons storage depots in Aqirbat, a town in the western governorate of Hama, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement cited by Reuters. The aircraft were reportedly supported by Su-30SM fighters based in Syria’s Hmeymim airbase, which has been leased to Russia by the Moscow-backed Syrian government.
The operation is the most recent in a series of blows administered to ISIS by separate forces backed by Russia and the U.S.Moscow is deeply involved in Syria’s war, which has dragged on for over six years, killing hundreds of thousands of people and displacing millions more. At the behest of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia staged a direct military intervention in 2015 and has since helped the Syrian military and its allies, which include Iran-backed militias, secure a plurality of the country’s territory in many regions from jihadists and the various insurgent groups attempting to overthrow the government since mass protests in 2011. Forces supportive of Assad have seen major gains in recent months, including the complete elimination of ISIS forces in Aleppo and a new cross-country offensive to relieve the besieged eastern city of Deir al-Zour, which ISIS took from rebels in 2014.