A man walks on the rubble of damaged buildings in the rebel-controlled area of Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, Syria. Picture: REUTERS
A man walks on the rubble of damaged buildings in the rebel-controlled area of Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, Syria. Picture: REUTERS

London — Airstrikes against Syrian rebels have increased by 150% since Russia intervened in the conflict in 2015, helping the regime triple the territory under its control, a report published on Tuesday showed.

The analysis by IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (JTIC) also found that just 14% of the strikes were against the Islamic State (IS) group, and that the Syrian state had increased the area under its control from 16% of the country in September 2015 to 47% in March 2018.

Russian intervention not only ensured the survival of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it changed the course of the war.

"Russian intervention has provided the Syrian government with the space and time to concentrate forces at key strategic areas and use overwhelming force to recapture opposition-held territory," said Matthew Henman, head of JTIC at IHS Markit.

"JTIC’s recorded data underlines the key role airstrikes have played in this strategy, with opposition forces largely unable to defend against, let alone replicate, the threat posed by air power."

IHS Jane’s said Assad’s forces have successfully recaptured large urban centres, such as Aleppo and Homs, as well as securing the border with Lebanon and containing the threat from Islamist rebels in Idlib.

Between September 2015 and March 2018, the number of Russian and Syrian strikes rose to 6,833 from 2,735. Of these strikes, 960 were targeted the IS group — about 14% — but the majority were against other rebel groups, the report found.

The strikes were "particularly concentrated in areas where the IS had little or no operational presence," it said.

AFP

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