Russia confirms it has begun air strikes in Syria, just hours after parliament granted Vladimir Putin the right to use military force in the war-torn country.
(Above: an air strike in Syria by Syrian government forces)
Russia said its forces targeted Islamic State militants by destroying their military equipment and communication facilities, but the US said IS territory did not appear to have been hit.
Syrian television has reported that strikes are targeting the Homs and Hama provinces, however US authorities say the strikes extend beyond the Homs region and to other areas not held by Islamic State forces.
Western-backed Syrian political opposition say at least 36 civilians have been killed in the strike where Islamic State fighters are not present.
Head of the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, Khaled Khoja, said on Twitter “All the targets in today’s Russian air raid over northern Homs were civilians. The targeted areas in today’s Russian air raid in Homs were those areas which fought ISIL and defeated it a year ago.”
The air strikes come after the Russian parliament granted President Vladimir Putin the right to carry out air strikes in Syria, following a unanimous agreement reached on Wednesday.
A vote was held in the Federation Council, and came following a request from Syria for military aid, according to the head of the Kremlin administration, Sergio Ivanov.
Mr Ivanov said: “The Syrian president asked the leadership of our country for military assistance”.
He insisted that the vote did not mean that Russian ground forces would be involved in conflict, rather the move related only to the use of the air force.
With an increasing military presence in Syria, Russia has shown support towards the government forces of Syrian leader Bashar-al-Assad in the conflict between his government and Isis militants and western backed rebels.
The Syrian presidency’s media office said: “Any increase in Russian military support to Syria happened and is happening as a result of a request from the Syrian state”.
It added that the Syrian request was based on international laws that govern the ties between states and aim “to realise the interest of their nations and guarantee the integrity of their lands”.
Russia has now warned the US not to fly in Syrian airspace during their strikes on the war-torn nation.