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Russia, Turkey conducting first joint air operation against Islamic State

The air operation involves nine warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Force and eight Turkish Air Force fighters

MOSCOW, January 18. /TASS/. On Wednesday, Russia’s Aerospace Force and Turkey’s Air Force are conducting the first joint air operation against the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) on the outskirts of the al-Bab town in the Aleppo province, Head of the Main Operations Department of Russia’s General Staff Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi told reporters.

"The air operation, agreed on with the Syrian government, involves nine warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Force, including four Sukhoi Su-24M, four Sukhoi Su-25 aircraft and one Sukhoi Su-34 bomber, as well as four F-16 and four F-4 fighters of the Turkey’s Air Force. A total of 36 targets are planned to be hit," he said.

According to Rudskoi, all the targets have been previously fixed by the two countries’ General Staff and their air force units command. "In the past two days, a reconnaissance mission involving unmanned aircraft and cosmic reconnaissance equipment was carried out in order to help fix the targets," Rudskoi elaborated.

"The joint airstrikes against the ISIS facilities, delivered by Russia and Turkey, have already proven highly effective," he noted.

IS militants continue attacks on Deir ez-Zor

Militants still continue to attack the positions of the Syrian troops near the city of Deir ez-Zor.

"The situation remains difficult in the Deir ez-Zor area, the city has been besieged by the IS terrorists for around three years. Taking advantage of their numerical superiority, the militants continue to attack the positions of the Syrian troops. In case the city is taken by terrorists, the residents will face a true genocide. The population of Deir ez-Zor may be exterminated," Rudskoi said.

US-led coalition forces out terrorists from Mosul towards Palmyra

Militants of the Islamic State are moving weapons and manpower ‘almost unimpededly’ towards Syria’s Palmyra because of the US-led coalition’s actions in Iraq, Rudskoi said.

"The actions of the US-led coalition grouping near the Iraqi city of Mosul have largely boiled down to edging out considerable forces of the ISIL [the former name of the IS] towards the eastern part of Syria where militants are moving weapons, explosives and manpower almost unimpededly towards Palmyra, Deir ez-Zor and also the town of al-Bab bordering on Turkey," the Russian general said.

Terrorists plot to blow up Palmyra’s historical sites

The Islamic State  is bringing large amounts of explosives to Palmyra, apparently with the aim to wipe out historical monuments in that city, Rudskoy said.

"We’ve received evidence confirmed by several sources a large amount of explosives is being moved to Palmyra. Islamic State terrorists are plotting to wipe out the world’s historical heritage in that city," he said.

Rudskoy said Syrian government troops were conducting an offensive in the area of Palmyra with support from Russia’s aerospace group with the aim to prevent the destruction of cultural monuments.

Islamic State gangs attacked Palmyra (240 kilometers away from Damascus) on December 9 last year. Also, the militants tried to seize oil wells and a military airdrome near the city. In the evening of December 11 government troops had to retreat from the central part of the city.

The Syrian army had recaptured Palmyra from the terrorists on March 27, 2016 with Russian air support. Russian bomb disposal specialist helped clear the city of and the antique monuments of mines.

Restoration of law and order in Aleppo

The Russian military police has helped restore law and order in the Syrian city of Aleppo liberated from terrorists.

"With the assistance of officers of the Russian military police, law-enforcement bodies have been restored in Aleppo districts liberated from terrorists and their work has been organized to ensure the population’s security," the general said.

Also, specialists of the Russian Armed Forces’ International Mine Action Center have demined more than 200 socially significant facilities, 3,210 buildings on the territory of over 2,000 hectares, 709 kilometers of roads and defused 26,395 explosive items in Aleppo, the general said.

"This has allowed more than 10,000 residents to return to their homes in the city’s eastern quarters," he added.

Also, doctors of the Russian Defense Ministry’s hospital have provided medical assistance to more than 5,000 people, including 1,847 children, Rudskoi said.

Russia’s Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Sides continues handing out hot meals and essential items in the Aleppo districts liberated from terrorists, the general said.

"Russian officers are continuing work aimed at restoring peaceful life in other districts of Syria as well," Rudskoi said.

Reconciliation of warring parties in Damascus

Russian officers’ efforts to reconcile the warring parties in Syria’s Damascus have made it possible to start repair work at the local water intake facility and ensure a return to peaceful life for the valley of the Wadi Barada river, Rudskoi said.

The water intake facility in the Ain al-Fijah populated locality (Damascus province) was brought out of operation in early January by a sabotage attack staged by terrorists, which left over five million residents of Syria’s capital without drinking water.

"The reconciliation of the warring parties was arranged in nine inhabited localities in this area with direct involvement of Russian officers. A total of 2,274 gunmen ended resistance. Most of them laid down arms and returned to civilian life," he said.

The militants who did not wish to remain in the area were given an opportunity to leave for the Idlib province with their families, Rudskoi noted.

"The result of these actions was a return to peaceful life in the Wadi Barada valley and repair work at the water intake facility. Water supply to Damascus will be fully restored at an early date. This work will continue in other regions of Syria," he added.

Less Syria ceasefire violations

The Russian Defense Ministry has noted a trend towards a decline in the number of ceasefire violations in Syria per day.

"There is a trend towards a drop in the number of violations per day. This creates favorable conditions for holding the talks with the opposition on the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis in Astana on January 23," Rudskoi said.

He noted that the Russian Reconciliation Center has been receiving requests from representatives of various opposition groups who are willing to take part in the Astana talks.

"For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry supports an increase in the number of participants from the opposition. However, the negotiation process should involve those representatives of the opposition who have real influence on the armed units on the ground," Rudskoi added.

Russia and Turkey act as guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria, which came into force on December 30. The government forces and armed opposition groups, which have over 60,000 members, have joined the truce.