Russian strikes take out 80 ISIS fighters, dozens of vehicles on march from Raqqa to Palmyra - MoD
On Monday night, three Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) convoys left Raqqa heading south towards Palmyra, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a Thursday statement.
The airstrikes were called in after the movements were spotted by reconnaissance units.
The Russian Air Force targeted the convoys on the run, killing 80 militants and destroying 36 vehicles, eight fuel trucks, and 17 pickups carrying mortars and large-caliber machine guns.
“The Russian task force in Syria has warned that any attempts by Islamic State militants to escape Raqqa through an open corridor towards Palmyra will be met with coercive force,” the military noted.
This is not the first time IS militants have tried to retreat from their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa. On May 25, a large Islamic State convoy made up of 39 vehicles and 120 militants was spotted outside Raqqa, a Defense Ministry source told RIA Novosti on Saturday.
“The terrorist convoy of 39 pickup trucks was detected and destroyed by the Air Force on its way to Palmyra,” the source said, adding that the vehicles had been equipped with large-caliber machine guns.
On Wednesday, the Russian Navy fired four Kalibr cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean that targeted terrorist compounds east of Palmyra. The missile strike decimated Islamic State positions near the city, the Defense Ministry said.
The precision attacks come as US-backed Syrian rebel fighters are engaged in intense clashes with Islamist forces on the northern and eastern edges of Raqqa in an attempt to encircle the city.
At this point, the US-backed rebels have surrounded the IS stronghold from the north, the west, and the east, but the south still remains open, according to New York Times.
In the Thursday statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said the IS terrorists are proactively exploiting the southern corridor to evacuate their forces to other parts of Syria. Russian troops in Syria will do their utmost to prevent them from breaking into the provinces of Homs and Hama, it added.