Syria army in major operation with Russia air cover: military source
Syria's army and pro-regime forces launched a major ground operation on Wednesday in Hama province backed by air support from Russian warplanes, a military source told AFP.
"The Syrian army and allied forces began a ground operation in the northern parts of Hama province (central Syria)... with fire cover from the Russian air force," the source said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier on Wednesday confirmed that Moscow's efforts "will be synchronised with the actions of the Syrian army on the ground... (to) effectively support the offensive operation of the Syrian army."
Russian warplanes have been conducting air strikes in Syria since September 30, targeting the country's north, centre and east.
The Syrian military source told AFP the Hama operation would target "the edges of the villages of Latmeen, west of Morek, in preparation for heading towards Kafr Zeita".
The army was fighting a range of opposition forces in the area, including moderate and Islamist rebels, as well as the Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.
"The Syrian army in its latest operations is working on cutting off the southern parts of Idlib province from the northern parts of Hama province," a military source in Hama added.
Idlib province borders Hama and is held by the powerful Army of Conquest rebel alliance, which includes Al-Nusra.
The grouping has tried in recent months to advance from Idlib into Hama and seize territory that would allow it to target the neighbouring regime stronghold of Latakia on the coast.
The source in Hama province said the ground attack would also aim to secure part of a nearby highway running from Damascus through Hama and then north to Aleppo city, half of which is under regime control.
© 2015 AFP