The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
The Russian Defense Ministry says its submarines HAVE fired 10 cruise missiles at Islamic State positions outside the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen, one of the last major IS strongholds in the country.
Russia has been a major backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and has helped government troops gain significant ground from opposition fighters and militant groups in the war.
The ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that the Kalibr missiles killed an unspecified number of IS fighters and destroyed major ammunition depots and command posts.
Konashenkov said the missiles were launched from the Veliky Novgorod and the Kolpino submarines in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday.
Syrian troops with the help of Russian air cover have been closing in on Mayadeen, which has become a main IS hub for militants and the group’s leaders after its former strongholds of Raqqa and Deir el-Zour have come under attack.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says 10 hospitals in Syria have been damaged over the past 10 days cutting hundreds of thousands of people from health care.
The ICRC said in a statement Thursday that Syria is witnessing the worst wave of fighting since government forces captured rebel-held east Aleppo in December.
ICRC said it is alarmed by reports of hundreds of civilian casualties and the destruction of hospitals and schools.
The head of ICRC’s delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser, said that for the past two weeks, “we have seen an increasingly worrying spike in military operations that correlates with high levels of civilian casualties.”
Violence has intensified in recent week in central, northern and eastern Syria between government forces and rival insurgent groups. The violence is also taking place in de-escalation zones that are part of a deal reached in the Kazakh capital of Astana between Iran, Turkey and Russia.
It said that with swelling numbers of civilians fleeing military operations – some camps around the northern province of Raqqa and eastern region of Deir el-Zour are receiving over 1,000 women, children and men every day.
Russia’s military says its jets have been targeting positions of an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria for two straight days, killing seven militant commanders and dozens of fighters.
Moscow blamed the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee for attacking Russian military police last month.
The Defense Ministry said Thursday that seven of the group’s commanders and 49 militants were killed in the airstrikes in the Idlib province on Wednesday. The strikes also destroyed a major ammunition depot at a militant-controlled air base.
On Wednesday, the Russian military reported that its airstrikes critically wounded the group’s leader a day earlier.
Russia has been waging an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces since 2015, helping them to make major advances against the Islamic State group, al-Qaida-linked insurgents and mainstream rebels.