Update (3:03pm) EDT: Russian air strikes this morning also hit targets in Latakia governorate. Ground sources report that the strikes were conducted with Su-30 tactical fighter jets, which Russia is known to have in Syria. These strikes occurred in the mountainous villages of Jebel Turkman and Jebel Akrad. There were no reported casualties.
A video posted by the Russian Ministry of Defense claiming to show an attack on ISIS military positions is from the Lataminah, Hama attack on the FSA group headquarters, (described in original post). It is important to note that there are no known ISIS positions near any of the attack sites, despite Russian claims.
Original post (12:19pm EDT): Just two days after Russian President addressed the UN General Assembly, as world leaders are still gathered in New York, Russia has begun air strikes in Syria. Despite an online statement by the Russian Ministry of Defense that Russia had bombed ISIS targets, all reported strikes occurred in areas where there is no known ISIS presence.
Reports from Syrian sources suggest that the targeted strikes hit four towns in northern Homs governorate: Talbiseh, Zafaraneh, Al-Rastan, and Al-Makaramah. All of these towns are within an area of northern Homs that has been besieged by pro-regime forces for more than a year. There were a reported 36 casualties so far, including a mixture of civilians (women, children, and elderly), and rebels, but this number is expected to rise due to the high number of injured victims yet to be treated.
This video claims to show the aftermath of the strike in Talbiseh, Homs (note: we can not independently verify this claim).
An additional Russian strike was reported in Lataminah, Hama, targeting the headquarters of a rebel group called Tajumu al-Azzeh (Pride Union, تجمع العزة), a moderate rebel brigade affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. Opposition sources indicate that there were four Russian aircraft in the sortie that bombed Lataminah. A video claiming to show the airstrike in Lataminah, Hama, appears to show two Sukhoi Su-24 ‘Fencer’ jets, which Russia is known to have 12 of in Syria. The Syrian Arab Air Force is also known to have Su-24 Fencers in its fleet, but the claims that today’s airstrikes were conducted by Russia instead of Syria appear to have been confirmed by Russia itself, when the Russian Ministry of Defense announced online that it has carried out precision airstrikes against ISIS terrorists in Syria. Despite the claims that it targeted ISIS, there are no known ISIS forces present in any of the areas targeted, and opposition groups in these areas have actually fought against ISIS as well as the Syrian regime.
While not completely unexpected, this move by Russia is a significant development and will undoubtedly prompt responses from world leaders and strategy shifts by rebel forces on the ground. Stay tuned for more TSI updates as the situation develops.