Russia says some opposition groups in the Syrian city of Aleppo are breaking ranks with militants and cooperating with the government.
In Dara’a Province, several groups have agreed to lay down their arms, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters in Moscow on Thursday.
“Syrian opposition groups have been productively sharing intelligence with us. Many are shifting to cooperation with the Syrian government,” he said.
Aided by Russian airstrikes, the Syrian army is closing in on the last pockets of militant positions in Aleppo which borders Turkey.
Konashenkov said terrorists are trying to flee to Turkey, “blending into” civilians as they know Russian jets won’t attack peaceful population, the Tass news agency reported.
“Mass desertion is fixed among gunmen groups operating in the area of Aleppo. Terrorists intimidate local population and use force to drive people to the Turkish border,” he said.
He said terrorists were dropping their weapons and trying to hide among the civilians.
The spokesman also turned the tables on the US over allegations that two hospitals had been targeted in Russian airstrikes in Aleppo.
US warplanes, he said, had flown from Turkey to hit targets inside Aleppo on Wednesday.
“Only, aviation of the anti-ISIS [Daesh] coalition flew over the city yesterday,” Konashenkov said in a statement.
“At 13:55 Moscow time, two US Air Force A-10 attack aircraft entered Syrian airspace from Turkish territory. Reaching Aleppo by the most direct path, they made strikes against objects in the city,” he added.
The statement came after the Pentagon accused Russian and Syrian government forces of destroying two main hospitals in Aleppo in air raids.
Konashenkov said Russian warplanes only hit targets some 20 km (12 miles) from the city on Wednesday.
He said Russian armed forces and their partners “have deployed a multi-layered intelligence system that ensures reliable detection of targets.”
“Only after multiple checks of the obtained data and ruling out any risks for peaceful civilians, airstrikes are delivered at those targets,” he told reporters.
The US has been carrying out airstrikes inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Syrian government or a UN mandate.
Brett McGurk, special envoy of US President Barack Obama, said Wednesday Russian airstrikes around Aleppo “directly promote” the rise of Daesh.
Syria’s government advances and militant losses have unleashed a chorus of warnings by the West and its regional allies about a new wave of refugee influx.
On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating in Aleppo, saying the surge in fighting has displaced about 50,000 people.