Russian Airstrikes in Syria: September 30 - October 20, 2015

Key Takeaway: Russian airstrikes continue to bolster the Assad regime’s efforts to defeat the Syrian opposition. Russian airstrikes from October 19-20 primarily supported ongoing regime ground offensives in rebel-held areas in the southern countryside of Aleppo, the al-Ghab plain of northwestern Hama Province, and the Jebel al-Akrad mountain range in northeastern Latakia Province. The regime is launching probing attacks in Jebel al-Akrad and the al-Ghab plan, likely in order to fix rebel forces in Hama and Latakia Provinces. This effort will prevent rebel forces from reinforcing positions in Aleppo Province, where the regime and its allies have launched their main effort.

Russia’s air campaign continues to marginalize moderate elements of the Syrian opposition by targeting moderate, U.S.-backed TOW anti-tank missile recipients. Russian airstrikes killed the Chief of Staff of U.S.-backed TOW missile recipient First Coastal Division in the vicinity of Jebel al-Akrad on October 19. TOW missiles have slowed regime advances throughout northwestern Syria throughout the past two weeks, particularly as Russia increased its supply of armored vehicles to the Syrian regime. U.S.-backed rebels in Aleppo, for instance, reportedly have targeted over 11 of the regime's armored vehicles with TOW missiles since October 16. Russian warplanes have targeted several other U.S.-backed TOW missile recipients since the start of the Russian aerial campaign in Syria on September 30, including Liwa Suqour al-Jebel, Liwa Fursan al-Haqq, and Tajamu' al-Izza in the provinces of Idlib and Hama, as well as the Martyr Lieutenant Ahmed Abdou Battalion in Damascus. The moderate opposition and U.S.-backed rebel groups may change their behaviors and alignments as a result of Russia’s attacks. Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra may simultaneously expand its campaign against U.S.-backed rebels with the support of allies within the Islamist opposition. 


The following graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, Syrian state-run media, and statements by Russian and Western officials.

High-Confidence reporting. ISW places high confidence in reports corroborated both by official government statements reported through credible channels and documentation from rebel factions or activist networks on the ground in Syria deemed to be credible.

Low-Confidence reporting. ISW places low confidence in secondary sources that have not been confirmed or sources deemed likely to contain disinformation.