Russia backs Syrian army

DAMASCUS. — Syria’s army chief of staff, Gen. Abdullah Ayoub, said yesterday that the military has unleashed a broad offensive against rebel-held areas across the country, buoyed by the Russian air support, according to the state news agency SANA.

“Today the Syrian armed forces have started a wide-scale offensive with the aim of eliminating the terrorists’ positions and liberate the areas and towns that have suffered from terrorism and its woes and crimes,” Ayoub said in a statement.

The senior Syrian military officer said Russia’s air strikes have weakened the rebel groups, while the army now can have a stronger position.

He also said that the army has formed a new force, including a battalion called the Intrusion Squad.

“After the Russian air strikes . . . , the Syrian army took the initiative and formed a force equipped with guns and munitions, most importantly the Intrusion Squad,” he said.

Ayoub, however, stopped short of naming the areas where the Syrian army is on the offensive.

Meanwhile, a military source told SANA that the Russian warplanes in co-operation with the Syrian air force carried out a series of air strikes against the positions of the Islamic State (IS). — Xinhua.