BEIRUT: At least 36 people were killed Friday in air strikes by Russian and Syrian jets on Islamic State-controlled Deir Ezzor province, a monitor said, describing them as the heaviest in the region since the start of the war.
Russia pounded the jihadist group in Syria, firing cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea after President Vladimir Putin vowed retaliation for a bombing that brought down a Russian airliner in Egypt last month.
At the United Nations, member states backed a motion calling for action against IS a week after 130 people were killed in Paris, the worst such attack on French soil also claimed by the jihadist group based in Syria and Iraq.
“At least 36 people were killed and dozens more injured in more than 70 raids carried out by Russian and Syrian planes against several districts in Deir Ezzor,” Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group told Agence France-Presse.
He described the raids, which targeted several large cities and smaller towns in the province and three oil fields, as “the worst bombardment of the region since the start of the uprising in 2011”.
The province and most of the provincial capital is held by Islamic State militants, with the exception of the military airport and a few areas controlled by the regime.
Russia began bombing in Syria in September at the request of its longstanding ally President Bashar al-Assad, while a US-led coalition is conducting its own air campaign against IS.
Putin this week pledged to hunt down and “punish” those behind a bombing that brought down a passenger jet in Egypt last month, killing all 224 people on board in an attack claimed by IS.
Moscow claimed to have killed more than 600 fighters after hitting seven targets in the Raqa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
It was the second time that warships have been used since the start of the bombing campaign on September 30.