Russian jets have carried out airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria from an airbase in Iran for the first time – a major development in the collaboration between the two crucial allies of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Russian state media cited the country’s defence ministry on Tuesday as saying that an unspecified number of long-range bombers, including Su-34 and Tu-22M3 warplanes, have taken off from near Hamadan, a city in the west of Iran, to target Isis near Aleppo. At least 19 civilians have been killed, according to an exiled activist group.
Hosting Russian jets on Iranian territory is a departure for Tehran from its hitherto history of covert operations in regional conflicts. It is believed to be the first time Russian warplanes have been deployed in Iran in at least half a century.
Al-Masdar, a news website which covers the conflicts in the Arab world, published a string of photos of Russian warplanes in the Hamadan airbase, saying it would shorten the flight time to Syrian targets by 60%.
“The distance of these flights [from the Russian airbase] equal roughly 2,150km (1,340 miles) to reach a target near Palmyra. In comparison, the Hamadan airbase in Iran is roughly 900km from Palmyra,” al-Masdar said. It added that the Khmeimim airbase in Latakia, Syria, was not suitable for the deployment of large bombers such as the TU-22M3.