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Russian air strikes in Syria have killed 45 people including a rebel commander in Latakia province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported today.

They identified the rebel commander as chief of staff of the First Coastal Division group, a foreign-backed insurgent faction fighting under the banner of the “Free Syrian Army”.

At the start of the month, Russian sorties increased significantly up to over 60 sorties a day, a tempo they reportedly maintained for the next 2 days. Russia also announced last week that up to sixty Islamic State targets were hit, killing 300 militants in the most intense strikes of the multi-national intervention so far.

Prior to their military intervention, Russian involvement in the Syrian Civil War had mainly consisted of supplying the Syrian Army. Russia intervened after a formal request from the Syrian government for military help against rebel and jihadist groups in Syria. Officials have acknowledged their objective is to help the Syrian government retake territory, including from opposition fighters backed by the United States. Their intervention could last a year or more, according to reports.

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