US, allies demand Russia halt Syria strikes outside IS areas – Reuters
Russia bombed Syria for a third day on Friday, mainly hitting areas held by rival insurgent groups rather than the Islamic State fighters it said it was targeting and drawing an increasingly angry response from the West.The U.S.-led coalition that is waging its own air war against Islamic State called on the Russians to halt strikes on targets other than Islamic State.”We call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians and to focus its efforts on fighting ISIL,” said the coalition, which includes the United States, major European powers, Arab states and Turkey.”We express our deep concern with regard to the Russian military build-up in Syria and especially the attacks by the Russian Air Force on Hama, Homs and Idlib since yesterday which led to civilian casualties and did not target Daesh,” it said.ISIL and Daesh are both acronyms for Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which has set up a caliphate across a swathe of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.In Syria, the group is one of many fighting against Russia’s ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Washington and its Western and regional allies say Russia is using it as a pretext to bomb other groups that oppose Assad. Some of these groups have received training and weapons from Assad’s foreign enemies, including the United States.President Vladimir Putin held frosty talks with France’s Francois Hollande in Paris, Putin’s first meeting with a Western leader since launching the strikes two days after he gave an address to the United Nations making the case to back Assad.PRAYERS CANCELED Friday prayers were canceled in insurgent-held areas of Homs province that were hit by Russian warplanes this week, with residents concerned that mosques could be targeted, said one person from the area.”The streets are almost completely empty and there is an unannounced curfew,” said the resident, speaking from the town of Rastan which was hit in the first day of Russian air strikes.Warplanes were seen flying high above the area, which is held by anti-Assad rebels but has no significant presence of Islamic State fighters.Islamic State also canceled prayers in areas it controls, according to activists from its de facto capital Raqqa.
A Russian air strike on Thursday destroyed a mosque in the town of Jisr al-Shughour, captured from government forces by an alliance of …Read More