BEIRUT (APP) – US-led coalition forces dropped parachuted ammunition to rebels battling jihadists in northern Syria on Monday.
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Meanwhile, the UN s peace envoy to Syria said he was heading to Moscow to promote a political end to the conflict, despite Russia intensifying its raids.
In a complex conflict involving several foreign players, Moscow has sided militarily with President Bashar al-Assad against his armed foes, branding them “terrorists”.
Washington and European states have called for his ouster and support what they term “moderate” rebel groups while seeking to eliminate the Islamic State jihadist group.
On Monday, the US said coalition forces had airdropped ammunition to Syrian Arab groups fighting IS in the north of the country.
“Coalition forces conducted an airdrop Sunday in northern Syria to resupply local counter-ISIL ground forces as they conduct operations against ISIL,” US Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said, using an alternative acronym for IS.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a US official told AFP the drop included 50 tonnes of ammunition.
In the latest fighting, Syrian troops and allied forces gained ground in the central province of Hama, advancing on the strategic Sahl al-Ghab plain backed by Russian air power.
Syria s army command said regime forces had captured Kafr Nabuda village in Hama, extending their advance around the key Damascus-Aleppo highway.
And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian army had captured Mansoura village in the Sahl al-Ghab plain.
“The clashes are the fiercest since the Russian air campaign began on September 30,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that dozens of Russian air strikes hit Sahl al-Ghab on Monday.
Sahl al-Ghab lies at the intersection of the provinces of Hama, Latakia and Idlib, and has been a major target for Russian strikes.
Idlib province is controlled by the powerful Army of Conquest rebel alliance which includes Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
They have sought to advance into Sahl al-Ghab and on towards Latakia province, the coastal stronghold of the regime and the home to Assad s ancestral village.
Syria s army command also reported advances in northern Latakia province and said regime forces had taken control of the “duty free zone” outside Aleppo in the north.
Moscow said Monday its air force had hit 53 targets in Syria in the past 24 hours, in Hama, Homs, Latakia and Idlib provinces.
Russia s air strikes in Syria began at the end of September, with Moscow saying it was targeting IS and other “terrorists”.
But rebels and their backers accuse Moscow of focusing on moderate and Islamist opposition fighters, rather than jihadists.
On Monday, UN peace envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said he would head to Moscow then Washington, as he struggles to push his initiative for a political settlement in Syria.
He acknowledged that Russia s air strikes had “introduced new dynamics” to the brutal conflict.
Mistura has proposed creating contact groups in addition to four working groups composed of Syrian opposition and government representatives.