The Latest: Turkish artillery strikes Syrian Kurdish militia

AP News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2016 4:04 PM
The Latest: Turkish artillery strikes Syrian Kurdish militia

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The Latest developments in the Syrian civil war, following Turkish ground forces' incursion (all times local):

11 p.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says Turkish artillery have shelled a group of Syrian Kurdish militia fighters after they allegedly ignored warnings to retreat.

The Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed security sources, said the military attacked the group on Thursday after they advanced north of the town of Mambij, reaching the village of Amarinah.

Turkey on Wednesday sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels retake the key Islamic State-held town of Jarablus and to contain the expansion of Syria's Kurds in an area bordering Turkey.

Ankara has demanded that the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the YPG, pull back east of the Euphrates River.

The private NTV television channel said the group was spotted by Turkish jets some 10 kilometers (six miles) south of Jarablus and hit by artillery positioned across the border in the Turkish town of Karkamis.

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8:15 p.m.

Syrian state-run TV and opposition activists say that an agreement has been struck between government forces and rebel factions for a cease-fire in a key rebel-held Damascus suburb.

The television channel says Thursday that under the terms of the agreement, 700 gunmen will be allowed safe passage out of Daraya to the northern province of Idlib.

Around 4,000 women and children will be taken to shelters outside the town.

Daraya has been besieged and blockaded by government forces for nearly four years, with only minimal food deliveries allowed to reach the district. The town is southwest of Damascus and has been pummeled by government airstrikes, barrel bombs and fighting over the years.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the agreement, under which rebels will give up all medium and heavy weaponry.

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7:30 p.m.

Activists and a doctor in the battered rebel-held area of Syria's Aleppo city say at least 13 people, mostly children, were killed when suspected government helicopters lobbed barrel bombs into a crowded residential area.

Osama Abo Elezz, a doctor from the rebel-held part of Aleppo, said the barrel bombs fell Thursday in Aleppo's Bab al-Nayreb district, hitting more than one building. He said the unguided explosives killed 10 children, including a two-month-old baby and a three-year-old girl. The activist group, the Aleppo Media Center, said at least 13 were killed, posting videos of attempts by doctors in the hospital to rescue the infant. Abo Elezz, who only left Aleppo Wednesday, said rescue workers were still working to pull survivors from under the rubble. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 15, including 11 children, and four women.

The discrepancy is common following such violence in the city that has been torn by violence since 2012.

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7 p.m.

Russia's U.N. ambassador says there doesn't have to be a confrontation with the United States over a report that blames the Syrian government and Islamic State militants for carrying out chemical attacks in the conflict-torn country.

Vitaly Churkin, whose country is a strong supporter of the Syrian government, stressed Thursday that the U.S. and Russia created the investigative body to determine those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria.

"We have a joint interest in discouraging such things from happening," he told reporters.

Churkin called the 95-page document produced by a team from the U.N. and the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog, "a very complicated report which needs to be studied by experts."

He said it was very important that the report named the Islamic State group, but he sidestepped questions about Syrian government involvement.

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6:45 p.m.

France's president is calling on Russia to push for a resumption of talks on a political transition in Syria as quickly as possible.

Francois Hollande referred to a report by a team from the U.N. and the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog agency that has concluded that the Syrian government and Islamic State militants carried out chemical attacks during 2014 and 2015.

"We are in a very serious situation ... evidences of crimes have been provided," he said in a speech in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, near Paris.

Hollande said it's now up to Russia to face "its responsibilities" and use its influence with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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4:45 p.m.

The head of the U.N. humanitarian aid efforts for Syria says the U.N. has received word from Russia that it supports a 48-hour pause in fighting in Aleppo so aid can be delivered.

Jan Egeland says "We are ready" and the U.N. is now awaiting assurances from two rebels groups and written authorization from President Bashar Assad's government before planned aid convoys can go through to the northern city's embattled population.

Egeland said Russia backs the three-point plan to involve road convoys of aid delivered from Damascus and Turkey, plus a mission into southern Aleppo to help revive a damaged electric plant that powers key water-pumping stations which serve 1.8 million people.

He said : "We are very hopeful that it will be a very short time until we can roll."

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2:25 p.m.

Germany's defense minister says her country wants to keep planes helping the campaign against the Islamic State group at Turkey's Incirlik base amid an argument over Ankara's refusal to let German lawmakers visit military personnel.

The announcement comes a day after Turkey sent in ground forces, assisted by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, into northern Syria to free a town from Islamic State militants.

Turkey was angered by German lawmakers voting in June to label the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago genocide.

German military missions require annual parliamentary authorization. Government lawmaker Rainer Arnold told Der Spiegel magazine the mandate wouldn't be renewed if visits aren't allowed.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland newspaper group Wednesday the military would like to continue operating from Incirlik.

Asked whether it could pull out quickly if necessary, she replied: "Smart military planning always foresees alternatives."

Germany has Tornado reconnaissance jets and refueling planes at Incirlik.

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1:55 p.m.

The main Syrian Kurdish faction says its troops have "returned to their bases" after helping liberate the city of Manbij from the Islamic State group.

Thursday's statement refers to an apparently separate pullout from the withdrawal that Turkey is seeking from the Kurdish forces in Syria.

Ankara has demanded the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as YPG, pull east of the Euphrates River from the area of the town of Jarablus. Turkey is concerned about the Syrian Kurdish expansion and on Wednesday sent ground forces into Syria to help Western-backed Syrian rebels retake Jarablus from IS.

The Kurdish forces' statement says they handed control of the northern Syrian city to a newly-established Manbij Military Council, made up of rebel fighters from the town.

The council's spokesman, Sherfan Darwish, earlier said the YPG contingent that helped liberate Manbij earlier this month numbered about 500 fighters.

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1:35 p.m.

Iraq says Syria's foreign minister has arrived in Baghdad for a visit at the invitation of his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The foreign ministry provided no further details on Thursday's visit or topics that Walid al-Moallem would discuss in meetings with Iraqi officials.

Al-Moallem's visit comes a day after Turkey sent ground forces across the border into Syria to take a key Islamic State stronghold, a development that Damascus denounced as a "blatant violation" of Syrian sovereignty.

While Iraq has made significant territorial gains in the fight against the Islamic State group, key border crossings between Iraq and Syria remain in the militant group's control and continue to be used to ferry supplies and fighters between the two countries.

The last time Syria's foreign minister visited Baghdad was in 2013, before the Islamic State group pushed into Iraq from neighboring Syria overrunning large swaths of territory in the country's north and west.

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12:40 p.m.

Turkey's defense minister says Turkish forces are securing the area around the town of Jarablus in northern Syria, a day after helping Western-backed Syrian rebels take the town from Islamic State militants.

Minister Fikri Isik said on Thursday that the Turkish-backed operation has two main goals — to secure the Turkish border area and to make sure the Kurdish Syrian forces "are not there."

Isik says "it's our right to remain there until" the Syrian opposition forces take control of the area.

Turkey is concerned about the advances of the Kurdish Syrian forces, fearing they aim to set up a Kurdish entity along Turkey's border with Syria. Ankara maintains that the Syrian Kurdish militia is linked to Kurdish rebels waging an insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

Isik says Ankara and the United States have agreed the Kurdish Syrian forces would pull out of the northern area around Jarablus "within two weeks." He spoke to the private NTV television.

He says that "for now, the withdrawal hasn't fully taken place. We are waiting for it and following it."

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10 a.m.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Turkish counterpart that Syrian Kurdish forces have started withdrawing east of the Euphrates River.

The pullback was a major demand by Ankara after Turkey sent in forces across the border to take a key Islamic State stronghold the previous day.

Turkish ministry officials say Kerry and Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke by telephone on Thursday. Turkey's incursion into northern Syria was also meant to contain an expansion by Syria's Kurds.

Battling IS militants in Syria, the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds have been able to seize nearly the entire stretch of the border with Turkey in northern Syria.

Vice President Joe Biden warned on Wednesday that the Syrian Kurdish forces will lose U.S. support unless they retreat east of the Euphrates.