Syrian military commanders say they have recaptured several villages in northern and central areas following Russian intervention. Paul Chapman reports.
Syrian army video shows scenes of fighting in Latakia province. A Syrian general said later on state TV that troops had recaptured several villages. There's similar footage of fighting in the central province of Hama. A commander said several villages in the north of the province had been taken there. The gains are a reversal of advances by rebel forces earlier this year. The victories claimed by the army follow the declaration of a large-scale offensive against rebel-held areas just days earlier. It's also happened with the backing of Russian air strikes which began on September 30th. Russia insists its air assaults target only banned terrorist groups in Syria, primarily Islamic State. Most have taken place in areas held by other opposition groups backed by Arab States, Turkey and the West. The European Union's foreign minister is issuing a renewed plea to Moscow to stop its aerial bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad. (SOUNDBITE)(English) EU FOREIGN MINISTER FEDERICA MOGHERINI, SAYING: "There is a worry on the fact that military activities might be either not targeted against Daesh or other U.N.-recognised terrorist organisations, and on the other side might not be co-ordinated with other actors that are playing a military role in this area which is something dangerous in itself." The E.U. and the United Nations special envoy for Syria are urging a political solution involving all sides in the conflict. (SOUNDBITE)(English) U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA, STAFFAN DE MISTURA, SAYING: "The situation could move into a toxic type of cocktail, of a combination of a creeping Afghanistan, with shades of Libya and Somalia. Hence the need of an urgent political process to start now." In a further twist the U.S. air-dropped small arms ammunition and other supplies to Syrian rebels on Sunday, part of a revamped strategy it said was to help them fight Islamic State militants.