Russia bombs Palmyra, eastern Syria: Military

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's airforce on Thursday said it carried out strikes near the Islamic State-held ancient city of Palmyra for the second time this week, claiming its targets were far from Syria's historic sites.

Russian bombers "destroyed a large fortified location of Islamic State militants," including an air-defence gun and a tank, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The ministry added that it "only strikes the objects of terrorist infrastructure which are at a considerable distance from the architectural monuments" and the target was about 30km from the historic citadel.

Airforce planes hit a total of 263 targets in two days, the ministry said. Among other targets was a munitions base near Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province belonging to Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front, which received a shipment of anti-tank rockets several days ago, it said.

Strikes were also carried out around Aleppo's Neirab airport, near Raqqa in the north of the country, in the mountains in Damascus province and a training base near al-Muhasan in eastern Syria's Deir Ezzor province.

The Russian air force also hit targets around Palmyra on Monday.

Russia is began its airstrikes on Syria on Sept 30, saying they were primarily targeting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), though the US and its allies in a separate coalition say that Moscow is mainly attacking more moderate groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad's army.

Moscow has adjusted rhetoric recently regarding the rebels fighting Assad in Syria, from discrediting the Western-backed Free Syrian Army as practically non-existent to last month proposing air support to moderate rebels.

On Thursday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied that Moscow labelled all rebel groups as terrorists.

"We have stated that there are terrorists, extremists, and the Syrian opposition part of which does have weapons."

"We are in practically daily contact with various representatives of the Syrian opposition," she added, without elaborating on specific groups.