Market shoppers and traders in the Syrian capital of Damascus, a stronghold of support for President Bashar al-Assad, say they applaud Russia's campaign of air strikes against targets elsewhere in the country. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) As Russia carried out air strikes in Syria for a second day running on Thursday (October 1), residents in Damascus said the action was a step towards the solution of the four-year-old war. In the city's old Hamidieh market, traders went about their business as usual. Varuj Gerunjian said Russia was the "best solution for the crisis". "The existence of Russia in this condition is a very positive step for Syria and I support everyone who agrees with me..." Trader Bourhan al-Halabi said he was hoping peace with prevail soon after Russia's involvement in the conflict. "We hope that these strikes bring the benefit to us and all the Arabic people and we hope that with their efforts everything returns to the way it was," he said. Russia said it had launched eight air strikes with Sukhoi warplanes overnight, hitting four Islamic State targets. According to the defence ministry, Sukhoi-24M and Sukhoi-25 aircraft had flown eight sorties, hitting an ammunition depot near Idlib as well as a three-storey Islamic State command centre near Hama. Islamic State, which is based largely in the north and east of Syria, does not have a substantial presence in Hama. But there were claims on Thursday that Russia was targeting areas held by an insurgent alliance that includes a group linked to al Qaeda, and not the Islamic State militants Moscow said it had hit. U.S. Senator John McCain on Thursday said Russia's initial air strikes in Syria targeted recruits in the Free Syrian Army rebel group backed by the United States. McCain, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview on CNN, that he can "absolutely confirm" that the Russian strikes had been against Free Syrian Army recruits, adding "we have communications with people there." Russia's decision to join the war with air strikes on behalf of Assad is a major turning point in international involvement in the conflict. The United States is leading a separate alliance waging an air war against Islamic State fighters, which means the Cold War superpower foes are now engaged in air combat over the same country for the first time since World War Two. They say they have the same Islamic State enemies. But they also have very different friends, and opposing views of how to resolve a 4-year-old civil war that has killed more than 250,000 people and driven more than 10 million from their homes. Washington and its allies oppose both Islamic State and Assad, believing he must leave power in any peace settlement. Moscow supports the Syrian president and believes his government should be the centrepiece of international efforts to fight extremist groups. Russia says its air strikes are more legitimate than those of the U.S.-led alliance because they have Assad's blessing, and more effective because they can coordinate with government forces to find targets.