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Russia’s General Staff blasts US-led coalition for destroying Syrian infrastructure

The Russian General Staff says the coalition delivers strikes on the quarters of Iraq’s Mosul where thousands of civilians stay besides the Islamic State’s militants

MOSCOW, March 28. /TASS/. The US-led international coalition is destroying critically important infrastructure facilities in Syria, complicating the country’s postwar rebuilding, Head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Department Colonel-General Sergey Rudskoy said on Tuesday.

"We continue observing the international coalition’s actions on the territory of Iraq and Syria. An impression is being created that the international coalition has set the goal of fully destroying critically important infrastructure facilities on the territory of Syria and maximally complicating the country’s postwar reconstruction," the general said.

"The biggest concern is caused by the coalition’s air strikes on the Euphrates Dam west of Raqqa. The latest such air strike was delivered on March 26," he said.

The US-led coalition also destroyed four bridges in an air strike on February 3: two in Raqqa and two in the settlements of al-Kalta and al-Abbara, Rudskoy said.

"As a result of these actions, communication was fully disrupted between the northern and the southern parts of the city, in which over 200,000 residents continue to stay. On February 18, the El Megle bridge in the vicinity of the town of Maadan 60 km east of Raqqa was finally destroyed," the Russian general said.

He went on to say that the US-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes almost every day on the quarters of Iraq’s Mosul where tens of thousands of civilians live.

"Nearly every day, the coalition’s aviation delivers strikes on the quarters of Mosul where tens of thousands of civilians stay besides the Islamic State’s militants. According to assessments of international humanitarian organizations, more than 250,000 people have left the city," he said.

More than 2,000 militants eliminated

Syrian forces with support of Russia’s Aerospace Forces have eliminated more than 2,100 militants near Hama over the past four days, Rudskoy said.

On March 21, some militants attempted to seize the city in west-central Syria, the general said. In an area controlled by the opposition, a group was set up consisting of more than 10,000 militants, mostly members of Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliated groups, he said.

During the offensive, the terrorists, who took advantage of their large numbers, managed to seize several settlements in the outskirts of Hama and approach the city. "Thanks to self-sacrificing steps of government forces and support of Russia’s Aerospace Forces, the situation in this area stabilized. Over the past four days since the battles started in the area, more than 2,100 militants, 55 armored vehicles, 22 Jihad-mobiles and more than 100 cars with heavy weapons have been destroyed," he said.

The operation is underway now to eliminate militants near Hama and the Syrian forces have launched a counteroffensive, the general said.

The general added that the Syrian army alongside opposition units has driven militants of the IS out of the dominant heights close to the Damascus-Palmyra highway.

"In the course of the joint offensive by the army and opposition units, ISIL (former name of Islamic State - TASS) militants were ousted from the dominant heights near the Damascus-Palmyra highway. The government troops gained control of 15 kilometers of the strategically important highway, which was under terrorists’ control for three years," he said.

Militants moving towards Syrian border

More than 800 militants have been allowed to leave Mosul and move towards the Syrian border over the past week without encountering any hindrances, he went on.

"While the coalition keeps claiming that Mosul has been sealed off tightly, militants continue to leave the city to infiltrate into the area of Syria’s Deir ez-Zor," Rudskoy said adding that the city remained encircled for several years and its garrison had to defend it in extremely adverse conditions.

"According to our sources, no less than 800 militants have been allowed to leave Mosul to move towards Syria’s border over the past week," he said.

More than 600 militants and more than 1200 members of their families have been allowed to leave the Al-Waer neighborhood of the city of Homs in a second phase of the operation to evacuate the militants from that area. All in all 90 militants have been taken out of Al-Waer by now, the chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate, Sergey Rudskoy, told a news briefing on Tuesday.

"The second phase of the evacuation of militants from Al-Waer ended yesterday. A total of 644 militants and 1,247 members of their families left the area. By now more than 600 militants in Al-Waer used the amnesty declared by the Syrian government and returned to peaceful life," he said.

The first phase of the operation to evacuate militants and their families was completed on March 18, when 1,400 people - 344 militants and 1,056 their relatives - were taken out of Al-Waer.

"All of them went to Jarablus, the territory controlled by the pro-Turkish opposition. I would like to point out that 204 militants said they would like to take their firearms with them and were allowed to do so," Rudskoy said.

At the request of the field commanders the Russian center for reconciliation and a military police battalion maintained security during the evacuation.

Rudskoy recalled that after it was agreed Al-Waer was to join truce the militants there were offered three options to choose from: "To strictly observe the ceasefire and give up support for the terrorists, lay down arms and use the amnesty declared by the authorities, or leave for an area of Syria that has not joined truce yet. Some members of illegal armed groups opted for the latter option," Rudskoy said.