Moscow, Syria (BBN)-Dozens of civilians, including five children, have allegedly been killed in Russia’s first airstrikes in Syria – a claim strongly denied by Moscow.
The Syrian National Council – a group opposed to President Assad – claimed 36 people died in strikes north of Homs, reports the Sky News.
The group’s leader, Khaled Khoja, said there were no Islamic State forces in the four areas hit on Wednesday.
He described Russia’s claims that it is targeting the terror group’s forces as “baseless”
Western powers, such as France and the US, have also expressed doubts over who was targeted.
But a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry rejected the reports of civilian deaths and called them part of an “information war”.
She said Russia is adhering “absolutely, legitimately” to international law.
Russia began strikes in Syria on Wednesday after a request from the Syrian regime in Damascus.
Its planes targeted IS vehicles and warehouses, according to the Russian defence ministry.
There are currently 32 Russian warplanes based near the Syrian port city of Latakia, guarded by 1,700 Russian marines.
It is unclear whether it intends to target all forces opposing President Assad – including US-backed rebels – or just extremists such as IS.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said it appeared Russia had struck in areas where IS was not operating.
France agreed, with Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying: “Russian forces struck Syria and curiously didn’t hit Islamic State.”
Prime Minister David Cameron struck a more cautious note.
“If this is part of international action against ISIL (IS) and that appalling terrorist death cult outfit, then that is all to the good.
“If, on the other hand, this is action against the Free Syrian Army and in defence of Assad the dictator, then obviously that is a retrograde step, but let’s see what happened.”
The US is said to have got only an hour’s notice of Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict.
The country’s top diplomats met for as third time in a week to try to find common ground amid the tensions.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov said they would discuss how to avoid accidental clashes – so called “friendly fire” incidents – perhaps as early as today.
Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov – speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York – said they had also swapped ideas about a political transition in Syria.
They told reporters they would be looking further at the proposals in the next few days.
An estimated 250,000 people have been killed in Syria’s four-year civil war between Mr Assad’s troops, rebel groups and Islamic State.
A further 11 million have been displaced.