Monday, October 12, 2015

Russian Airstrikes in Syria: September 30 - October 12

By Genevieve Casagrande and Jodi Brignola

Key Takeaway: The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) continued to ramp up its aerial campaign in Syria, claiming to conduct 250 “combat sorties” from October 9-12. This spike in Russian military activity is a notable escalation compared to the 20 “combat sorties” flown on October 8. Most Russian airstrikes continued to concentrate in northwestern Hama province in support of a large-scale regime offensive in the area. In addition, Russian warplanes conducted numerous airstrikes in the western countryside of Aleppo against rebel and Jabhat al-Nusra positions. These airstrikes coincided with ISIS’s largest advance against rebels in northern Aleppo since August 2015, indicating that Russian airstrikes are not deterring ISIS from launching new offensives. Instead, rebels in Aleppo province are currently facing escalated threats from pro-regime airstrikes and ISIS simultaneously. The Russian MoD also claimed airstrikes in the vicinity of Kuweires Airbase east of Aleppo City, likely targeting ISIS, alongside Syrian regime operations near the airbase that led to the death of IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani on October 8. Kuweiris has been under siege by ISIS, such that providing relief to pro-regime ground forces there requires engaging ISIS directly. The Russian MoD also claimed airstrikes in ar-Raqqah, Homs, and Damascus, which would suggest additional strikes targeted a combination of ISIS and rebel positions; however, credible local reporting did not validate these claims.

The following graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, Syrian state-run media, and statements by Russian and Western officials.

High-Confidence reporting. ISW places high confidence in reports corroborated both by official government statements reported through credible channels and documentation from rebel factions or activist networks on the ground in Syria deemed to be credible.

Low-Confidence reporting. ISW places low confidence in secondary sources that have not been confirmed or sources deemed likely to contain disinformation.