A picture taken on September 30, 2015 shows damaged buildings and a minaret in the central Syrian town of Talbisseh in the Homs province. AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD TAHA
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Russia launched airstrikes in Syria Wednesday in the Kremlin's biggest Middle East intervention in decades, but Moscow's assertion that it had hit ISIS was immediately disputed by the U.S. and rebels on the ground. The airstrikes plunged the 4-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. The United States said a Russian official in Baghdad warned it to keep American aircraft that have been pressing a daily bombing campaign against ISIS positions out of Syrian airspace during Moscow's airstrikes. But the U.S. continued its air operations, saying it targeted ISIS near the Syrian city of Aleppo. Russia's powerful Orthodox Church voiced support for Moscow's decision to carry out airstrikes in Syria, calling it a "holy battle".The strikes came two days after Putin met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the U.N. and the two agreed their armed forces should hold talks to avoid coming into conflict in Syria.
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