World

Syrian chief of staff: Russian strikes helping new ground offensive to eliminate 'terrorists'

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. NATO defense ministers meet Thursday to consider the implications of recent Russian military actions in Syria, as well as ongoing measures to retool NATO to meet contemporary security threats. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. NATO defense ministers meet Thursday to consider the implications of recent Russian military actions in Syria, as well as ongoing measures to retool NATO to meet contemporary security threats. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)  (The Associated Press)

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. NATO defense ministers meet Thursday to consider the implications of recent Russian military actions in Syria, as well as ongoing measures to retool NATO to meet contemporary security threats. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. NATO defense ministers meet Thursday to consider the implications of recent Russian military actions in Syria, as well as ongoing measures to retool NATO to meet contemporary security threats. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this frame grab from video provided taken from Syrian TV via Al Manar, Gen. Ali Ayoub, Syria's chief of staff, speaks, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Damascus, Syria. Ayoub said in a rare televised statement that the Russian strikes on Syria have facilitated an expanded military operation to eliminate “terrorists,” a term the Syrian government uses to refer to all armed opposition to President Bashar Assad. (Al Manar via AP)

    In this frame grab from video provided taken from Syrian TV via Al Manar, Gen. Ali Ayoub, Syria's chief of staff, speaks, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Damascus, Syria. Ayoub said in a rare televised statement that the Russian strikes on Syria have facilitated an expanded military operation to eliminate “terrorists,” a term the Syrian government uses to refer to all armed opposition to President Bashar Assad. (Al Manar via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Syria's chief-of-staff has declared a wide-ranging ground offensive by Syrian troops, a day after government forces advanced in a multipronged attack backed by Russian airstrikes and cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea.

Gen. Ali Ayoub says the Russian strikes have facilitated an expanded military operation to eliminate "terrorists." The Syrian government refers to all armed opposition against President Bashar Assad as terrorists.

Syrian activists said government troops pushed Thursday into rural parts of Latakia province.

Activist Ahmad al-Ahmad said on Wednesday, fighting that focused on rural Hama and Idlib province in northwest sparked intense clashes, with rebels repelling government troops from at least one village.

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian airstrikes in Idlib killed at least seven civilians on Wednesday.