Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate called for jihadists to attack Russia over its air strikes in Syria, as rockets hit Moscow’s Damascus embassy Tuesday where demonstrators had gathered to back the intervention.
Israeli artillery also targeted Syrian army posts after two rockets fired from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights, the Jewish state’s military said.
The developments came a day after US-led coalition forces air-dropped ammunition to the Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) battling jihadists near the Islamic State group’s northern stronghold of Raqa.
Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, head of Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, urged jihadists in the Caucasus to target Russians because of Moscow’s air campaign.
“If the Russian army kills the people of Syria, then kill their people. And if they kill our soldiers, then kill their soldiers. An eye for an eye,” Jolani said in an audio recording released late Monday.
He pledged that Moscow’s air war, which began on September 30, would have dire consequences.
“The war in Syria will make the Russians forget the horrors that they found in Afghanistan,” Jolani said, adding: “They will be shattered, with God’s permission, on Syria’s doorstep.”
Russia has said its raids are targeting Al-Nusra’s jihadist rival IS and other “terrorist” groups.
– Qaeda bounty on Assad –
A US-led air coalition fighting IS in Syria has also targeted Al-Nusra several times.
Jolani urged armed opposition groups to shelve their differences until both air campaigns had been defeated.
“Delay the disputes until the demise and smashing of the Western Crusader and Russian campaign on Syrian land,” he said.
Jolani also called on armed groups to “hurl hundreds of rockets” daily at villages inhabited by the Alawite minority, the sect from which President Bashar al-Assad hails.
“When they will stop attacking our village and cities, we will stop attacking theirs.”
Jolani said he would pay “three million euros ($3.4 million) for anyone who can kill Bashar al-Assad and end his story”.
“How long must Muslims delay their rights and shed their blood for a man who loves his power?”
He said he would pay the bounty even if a member of Assad’s own family killed him.
Jolani also offered “two million euros ($2.2 million) for whoever kills Hassan Nasrallah”, leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement whose men have been fighting alongside Assad’s forces.
Tuesday morning’s rocket attack on Moscow’s diplomatic compound in Damascus sparked panic among some 300 demonstrators expressing their support for Moscow’s air war.
Two rockets slammed into the complex as the demonstrators waved Russian flags and pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
– Russians hit 4 provinces –
“Two rockets hit embassy territory at 10:15 am. No one was killed or wounded,” Russian news agency Interfax quoted embassy official Eldar Kurbanov as saying.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rockets were fired from the eastern edges of the capital, where Islamist rebels are entrenched.
The Britain-based monitoring group said Russian warplanes on Tuesday carried out air strikes in Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo provinces.
It also said supplies and thousands of Iranian fighters had reached Hmeimim airport in Latakia province, where all civilian flights have ceased and which is now used for military operations only.
Elsewhere on the ground, the Observatory said fierce overnight fighting in the key village of Kafr Nabuda in the central province of Hama forced pro-regime forces to retreat and killed 25 of them.
It also said Hezbollah fighters arrived in the strategic Sahl al-Ghab plain to reinforce the regime’s offensive there.
Sahl al-Ghab at the intersection of Hama, Latakia and Idlib provinces has been a major target for Russian air strikes.
On the Golan, Israel responded to two stray rockets from Syria by targeting two regime military posts, without specifying if they were hit.
Israel warned it would not tolerate rockets fired across the border, “intentional or not”.
Also Tuesday, rights group Amnesty International accused Kurdish forces in north and northeast Syria of committing “war crimes” by forcibly displacing perceived IS supporters and demolishing their homes.
It said destruction it had examined was not caused by fighting, but was part of “a deliberate, coordinated campaign of collective punishment of civilians in villages previously captured by IS, or where a small minority were suspected of supporting the group”.