Russia strikes hit two Syria provinces: Syrian security source

Deserted streets and damaged buildings in the central Syrian town of Talbisseh in the Homs province on September 30, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Taha)

Damascus (AFP) - Russian warplanes carried out air strikes Wednesday in the central Syrian provinces of Homs and Hama, a Syrian security source said, with a monitor saying they targeted Al-Qaeda and other Islamist fighters.

Earlier the security source said they had also struck coastal Latakia province, but subsequently clarified that they had only provided target guidance for regime aircraft there without dropping bombs.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition denounced what it called a "savage bombardment" which it said had cost civilian lives.

Syrian state television reported Russian strikes in two provinces, but said they had targeted the Islamic State group (IS).

The security source said "the strikes led to direct results and struck the targets with precision".

"Russian unmanned drones had flown (over these areas) before the strikes."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raids hit Rastan, Talbisseh and Zaafarani in Homs, while the security source spoke only of Rastan and Talbisseh.

The Britain-based group reported five combatants and 27 civilians killed and many more wounded.

State television said that "implementing the agreement between Syria and Russia to counter international terrorism and eliminate the Islamic State group, and in cooperation with the (Syrian) air force, Russian planes today carried out several air strikes targeting IS".

It listed three areas in Hama and four in Homs that it said had been hit.

A military source also reported the strikes in Hama and Homs.

"We are trying to establish a toll in the strikes, but what is certain is that numerous terrorist leaders were killed in these attacks against IS," he said.

Control of Homs province is mostly divided between Syria's regime and IS, which holds the famed city of Palmyra and much of the area east of it.

However, the areas struck in Homs are mostly controlled by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, while those hit in Latakia are held by a coalition known as the Army of Conquest, which includes Al-Nusra.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the strikes in Homs focused on command posts belonging to Al-Nusra, as well as to its powerful Islamist ally Ahrar al-Sham and small local rebel groups.

As for Hama, he said the warplanes hit arms depots in Latamina belonging to a group called Jaish al-Izzah, as well as other targets, including those belonging to Al-Nusra.

In New York, National Coalition chief Khaled Khoja said the air strikes in Homs had "killed 36 innocent people", all civilians.

A Coalition statement said the strikes were "a flagrant aggression against all the Syrian people... that torpedoes Russia's stated intentions of working toward a political settlement".

It called for the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a member, to press Moscow to end "its aggression" and withdraw from Syria immediately and fully.

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