Russia has launched its first airstrikes near the city of Homs in Syria, according to a senior U.S. official.

The anticipated strikes follow a decision on Wednesday by the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, to grant president Vladimir Putin permission to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State, according TASS, the state news agency.

Sergey Ivanov, the Kremlin’s chief of staff, said the Federation Council “unanimously supported the president’s request” to use Russian military force in Syria.

“The operation’s military goal is exclusively air support of the Syrian armed forces in their fight against ISIL,” Ivanov said.

“We are not pursing any foreign political goals or ambitions, of which we have been regularly accused. The point is just to defend Russia’s national interests.”

Ivanov said the Russian effort will not include the use of ground forces.

“We’re talking exclusively about operations of Russia’s Air Force, as our president has already said, the use of armed forces on the ground theater of military operations is excluded,” he said.

According to military spokesman Igor Konashenkov, Russian aircraft are targeting ISIS positions, vehicles and warehouses.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad media operation based in London, reported 27 people were killed in airstrikes in Homs carried out by Russian aircraft stationed outside of Latakia.

In a speech before the United Nations, Putin called for an international coalition to combat ISIS.

President Obama said the United States and its allies want the Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad to leave office.

On Tuesday Saudi Arabia rejected Putin’s proposal.

The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said of al-Assad did not step aside, his country would pursue a “military option.”


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