Russians Conduct Airstrikes in Syrian City of Homs, Where Anti-Assad Forces Are Concentrated

The Russians have launched airstrikes in the west Syrian city of Homs, CNN's Barbara Starr reported Wednesday, the culmination of an increased military buildup to bolster their ally, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

A senior U.S. official informed Starr of the news:

Russia has conducted its first airstrike in Syria, near the city of Homs, a senior U.S. official told CNN Wednesday. The Russians told the United States that they should not fly U.S. warplanes in Syria, but gave no geographical information about where they planned to strike. The senior official said U.S. missions are continuing as normal.

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The strike in Homs was significant, Starr said, because while the Islamic State terrorist group is not a presence there, anti-Assad forces in the country are.

"Why would the Russians strike here, unless they were planning to have an intent to prop up Bashar al-Assad? That's what the U.S. is looking at," Starr said. "The backstory on all of this: Apparently, the U.S. official says, earlier today a Russian general went to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, spoke to the U.S. military defense attache there, and informed the U.S. that these airstrikes would happen within one hour of that notification and told the U.S. it should get its warplanes out of Syrian air space."

The Russians did not tell the U.S. the strike would be in Homs, Starr said. The Russians ordered an increased military presence in Syria this month to prevent Assad's collapse, with President Vladimir Putin arguing that his fall would be destabilizing for the country and the international fight against the Islamic State. The Obama administration has maintained Assad has to go in order for there to be a political solution to the Syrian crisis.