Apparent Russian raids in Syria's south for first time: monitor

Russia launched its Syrian air campaign on September 30 (AFP Photo/)

Beirut (AFP) - Russia appears to have carried out strikes in southern Syria's Daraa province for the first time in an apparent expansion of its aerial campaign, a monitor said on Thursday.

"Warplanes that are believed to be Russian carried out strikes on the Hara, Tal Antar, Kafr Nasaj and Aqraba areas of northern Daraa" last night, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

"This would be the first time that Russian planes have carried out strikes in Daraa," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The Britain-based monitor had no immediate details on casualties or damage in the strikes.

The area targeted is controlled by an array of opposition groups including moderate and Islamist rebels and the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

There have been clashes there between opposition and regime forces, but the province has not seen the kind of large-scale ground operation launched by government forces in coordination with Russian strikes elsewhere in the country since Moscow's air campaign began on September 30.

The southern province, which borders Jordan, is largely under opposition control, with the provincial capital divided between regime and rebel forces.

On Thursday morning, the Observatory said, Russian warplanes renewed strikes elsewhere in Syria, including in the central province of Homs and the northwestern province of Idlib.

Russia says its air campaign targets the Islamic State group and other "terrorists" but the opposition accuses Moscow of focusing on moderate and Islamist rebels rather than jihadists.