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The New Arab

Russia plans second air base in Syria's Homs

Russia says its forces in Syria are targeting ISIS [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 November, 2015

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Moscow's military presence in Syria is likely to grow opening of a second Russian air base, reinforced by 1,000 Russian ground troops, a Gulf media outlet reported Monday.

Russia is looking to scale up its military presence in Syria with the opening of a second airport in eastern Homs, around 25 kilometres south-east of the provincial capital.

The move could see Russia's air fleet bolstered to over 100 war planes, while 1,000 ground troops are also on their way to Syria according to al-Rai Media Group.

These new Russian troops would be used in "selective battles" in Syria, and to provide security for al-Shayarat airport in Homs province, according to a high-ranking military officer.

A joint force of Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi and Hizballah fighters would be used on the ground to retake territory in Homs from the Islamic State group.

This includes an offensive on the ancient city of Palymra which was lost by Damascus to IS in May.

Since then, regime forces, backed by Russian air support, have been inching closer to the UNESCO site and city's suburbs.

Much of the heritage site has been damaged by explosives set off by IS extremists and regime bombs, which have killed dozens in the city.

Troops and militias loyal to Damascus are said to be just a few kilometres away from Palmyra, known as Tadmur in Arabic, which was once home to a notorious regime prison and torture centre.

Al-Shayrat airbase houses 45 fortified aircraft hangers, Elijah J. Magnier from the newspaper said in the report.

Engineers are building a three kilometre backup runway to cater to the new Russian aircraft.

Russia has around 37 war planes and helicopters at Latakia airbase, including Su-34 war planes.

One Su-24 Fencer from the fleet was shot down by a Turkish missile on 24 September.

The Russian war planes will be used in a new offensive against IS in Homs province, the source claimed.

However, the majority of Moscow and the regime's firepower has been concetrated on rebel factions, including members of the Free Syrian Army who are also at war with IS.

Russian air raids have already killed hundreds of civilians and caused huge damage to infrastructure according to opposition sources.

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