Moscow said Wednesday its warships fired a fusillade of missiles from the Caspian Sea to support Syrian troops on the ground in the first major coordinated assault on rebels. The complex offensive hit at least four insurgent positions and heavy clashes ensued, according to the British-based group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu said in a televised briefing that the ships launched 26 cruise missiles and destroyed 11 targets, marking Russia’s first naval intervention in its push into the Syrian civil war. Syrian troops, backed by Russian air and sea power, launched a heavy artillery bombardment and moved toward Idlib, a stronghold of mostly Islamist rebels. The strikes highlighted Moscow’s coordination with Iran and Iraq, whose airspace the missiles passed over before allegedly striking targets held by ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra, an affiliate of al Qaeda.
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