Russia launched air strikes in Syria on Wednesday in the Kremlin’s biggest Middle East intervention in decades, but Moscow’s assertion that it had hit Islamic State was immediately disputed by the United States and rebels on the ground.
The air strikes plunged the four-year-old civil war in Syria into a volatile new phase as President Vladimir Putin moved forcefully to assert Russian influence in the unstable region.
Moscow and Washington offered conflicting accounts of which targets had been struck, underlining growing tensions between the two former Cold War foes over Russia’s decision to intervene. Washington is concerned that Moscow is more interested in propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad than in beating Islamic State.
The Russian defense ministry said the strikes targeted military equipment, communication facilities, arms depots, ammunition and fuel belonging to Islamic State.
U.S. officials said targets in the Homs area appeared to have been struck, but not areas held by Islamic State.
Russia warned the United States ahead of the strikes to keep its aircraft out of Syrian airspace, but the United States pressed forward with its campaign of air strikes against Islamic State forces and said it had targeted Islamic State near the Syrian city of Aleppo.
A U.S. official said Moscow gave Washington just an hour’s notice of its strikes, which the Kremlin said were designed to help Assad, its closest regional ally, push back Islamist militants.
Notice of the attack came from a Russian official in Baghdad who asked the U.S. air force to avoid Syrian airspace during the mission,…