A senior Al-Nusra Front commander has been killed by the Syrian army's special forces in an operation in the a strategic city in Idlib province, according to Syrian Arab News Agency (Sana) reports. Mohamad Mashrout was killed along with 12 fighters in Maarrat al-Nu'man city on Saturday (21 November). The cause of the militant's death has not been revealed.
The Syrian and Russian air forces have recently intensified air strikes against rebels in Idlib province, including in Saraqib city in northwest Syria. A military commander from the Jeish Al-Islam militant group was killed after Russian fighter jets bombed the group's headquarters.
Since beginning its operation on 30 September, Russia's air force has carried out 1,391 missions in Syria, destroying a total of 1,623 militant targets, according to the Centre for Research on Globalization. The Russian air strikes have intensified in the oil-rich Deir al-Zour province.
China to enter Syria conflict
The Russian military says it fired 18 cruise missiles on Friday, destroying seven targets in Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
The Russian campaign, which supports Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, received a boost this week after it was reported that China is preparing to enter into the conflict. Russian media followed that up by quoting Igor Morozov, a member of the Russian Federation Committee on International Affairs, confirming that Chinese aircraft carrier, Lianoning, and a guided missile cruiser were heading to the area, adding that Chinese "military advisers" were already in the region.
Morozov said: "It is known that China has joined our military operation in Syria. The Chinese cruiser has already entered the Mediterranean, followed by its aircraft carrier."