DAMASCUS, Syria, – A Russian submarine launched missiles against insurgent positions inside Syria on Tuesday.
In a statement, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said it was the “first time” Kalibr cruise missiles were launched into Syria by the Rostov-on-Don submarine from an underwater position in the Mediterranean Sea.
The strikes were reportedly directed at militant positions in Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State.
Moscow also said its air force conducted 300 sorties since Saturday, engaging over 600 targets across Syria.
Russia intervened in Syria on Sept. 30, conducting airstrikes on behalf of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow says it is targeting “all terrorists,” but activists and a U.S.-led coalition — which has conducted an air campaign against IS in Syria since September 2014 — accuse Russia of mainly attacking moderate opposition forces.
Since early October, the Syrian military — backed by Russian air power, Iranian troops, and allied paramilitaries, including Hezbollah fighters — have launched a series of thrusts across the country in a bid to regain territories lost earlier in the year.
The United Nations estimates 250,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war, which began after Assad ordered a brutal crackdown on Arab Spring protesters in 2011. The rebellion collapsed into a fragmented and bloody armed conflict between a series of insurgent cells, Islamic terrorists and the Syrian government, with outside powers backing various groups with airstrikes, supplies and training.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 4,000 people, including 1,053 civilians, were killed across Syria last month.
The submarine strike came the same day representatives from Syria’s main opposition groups met in Riyadh to hammer out a unified delegation for upcoming peace negotiations with the Syrian military.
By Fred Lambert