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Russia expands footprint, strikes Syria from Iran

Russia used Iran as a base from which to launch airstrikes against Syrian militants for the first time Tuesday, widening its air campaign in Syria and deepening its involvement in the Middle East.

In a move underscoring Moscow's increasingly close ties with Tehran, long-range Russian Tupolev-22M3 bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used Iran's Hamadan air base to strike a range of targets in Syria.

It was the first time Russia has used the territory of another nation, apart from Syria itself, to launch such strikes since the Kremlin launched a bombing campaign to support Syrian President Bashar Assad in September last year.

It was also thought to be the first time that Iran has allowed a foreign power to use its territory for military operations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The Iranian deployment will boost Russia's image as a central player in the Middle East and allow the Russian air force to cut flight times and increase bombing payloads.

Russia's state-backed Rossiya 24 channel earlier Tuesday said the Iranian deployment would allow the Russian air force to cut flight times by 60 percent.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its bombers had taken off Tuesday from the Hamadan air base in northwest Iran. The ministry said Tuesday's strikes had targeted Daesh as well as militants previously known as the Nusra Front in the Aleppo, Idlib and Deir al-Zor provinces. It said its Iranian-based bombers had been escorted by fighter jets based at Russia's Hmeimim air base in Syria's Latakia Province.

"As a result of the strikes five large arms depots were destroyed ... a militant training camp ... three command and control points ... and a significant number of militants," the ministry said in a statement.The destroyed facilities had all been used to support militants in the Aleppo area, it said, where battle for control of the divided city has intensified in recent weeks.

Source: National News Agency