US officials said on Monday that Russian bombing of America’s allies in Syria was part of a strategy intended to bolster the Assad regime by going its moderate opponents, rather than targeting terrorist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil.)

“On day one, you can say it was a one-time mistake,” a senior U.S. official reportedly told the Wall Street Journal. “But on day three and day four, there’s no question it’s intentional. They know what they’re hitting.”

The strategy is part of a direct challenge to President Barack Obama’s Syria policy, the anonymous officials claimed.

Russia insists that its air campaign in Syria is targeted only at Isil and other terrorist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.

The comments by US officials came as Nato warned that incursions by Russians jets into Turkish airspace on two separate occasions at the weekend were “no accident”.

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