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US Official: Moscow 'Deliberately Targeting' Syrian Rebels With Airstrikes

US Official: Moscow 'Deliberately Targeting' Syrian Rebels With Airstrikes
(Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 14 October 2015 02:39 PM

U.S. and Russian military officials are trying to reach an agreement about flights over Syria while evidence mounts that Moscow has been "deliberately targeting" Syria's rebels, rather than the Islamic State, with its airstrikes.

Russia's attacks have killed up to 150 of the rebels, an unnamed U.S. official told Fox News, making his claim on Wednesday while officials from both countries hold their third video conference to seek ways for their planes to avoid collisions while launching airstrikes.

On Wednesday, Russian officials said one of the country's fighter jets had approached a U.S. coalition plane to demand identification.

Russian Defense Military Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that Russia was bombing ISIS targets in Syria's Aleppo province and "detected emissions from an unidentified flying object," according to wire reports.

"Our fighter turned and flew to a distance of two to three kilometers (one to two miles from the plane), not with the aim of scaring someone, but to identify the object in question and to whom it belonged," he said, and that it was "not the first such case", as Russian pilots often come within visual recognition distance of U.S. warplanes and drones.

U.S. Col. Steven Warren said earlier that the planes had come within miles of each other, causing fears that the increasingly crowded skies could lead to collisions.

The pilots "conducted themselves appropriately," said Warren, but the situation is still dangerous.

But while the negotiations are going on, the unnamed official told Fox News that Putin "is deliberately targeting our forces," speaking of the U.S.-trained rebel fighters. "Our guys are fighting for their lives."

Over the weekend, the U.S. military airdropped some 50 tons of weaponry into northern Syria for rebel forces fighting back against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, just after ending the program to train the fighters, reports Fox.

But that doesn't mean the United States will likely fight back against Russia to protect the rebels. White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that fighting Russian involvement "doesn't rate nearly as high on the scale" as fighting the Islamic State.

According to a defense official, Russia has opened two fronts, advancing north from Hama and with a unit that includes troops from the Assad regime heading toward the Idlib province.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon believes that Iranian-backed forces, which consist mainly of Hezbollah fighters, are fighting for the Assad regime in northwest Syria, using operatives who have defended the regime for years.

In addition, intelligence reports show that Cuban paramilitary and Special Forces units are on the ground in Syria, reports Fox.

Meanwhile, the talks are not about coordinating the fight with Russia, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox, as Moscow is not targeting ISIS.

"The only role Russia can or should play in Syria is in assisting Assad to step aside," he said.

"Everything else is counterproductive. They have been completely disingenuous about their desire to fight ISIL."

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U.S. and Russian military officials are trying to reach an agreement about flights over Syria while evidence mounts that Moscow has been "deliberately targeting" Syria's rebels, rather than the Islamic State, with its airstrikes.
us, moscow, syrian, rebels, airstrikes
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2015-39-14
Wednesday, 14 October 2015 02:39 PM
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