President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia suddenly escalated the stakes in his contest with the West over influence in the Middle East on Wednesday, as Russian pilots carried out their first airstrikes in Syria….
Russian officials and analysts portrayed the move as an attempt both to fight Islamic State militants and to try to ensure the survival of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia’s main ally in the Middle East. But Homs is not under the control of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
—New York Times ()
A Syrian opposition activist network, the Local Co-ordination Committees, said Russian warplanes hit five towns—Zafaraneh, Rastan, Talbiseh, Makarmia and Ghanto—resulting in the deaths of 36 people, including five children.
None of the areas targeted were controlled by IS, activists said.
The Islamic State jihadist group executed nine men and a boy it accused of being gay in central and northern Syria on Monday, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jihadists shot dead seven men in Rastan, a town in Homs province of central Syria, “after accusing them of being homosexual.”