The Latest: UN and Red Cross head to suburb being evacuated

AP News
Posted: Aug 26, 2016 3:03 PM
The Latest: UN and Red Cross head to suburb being evacuated

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria's civil war (all times local):

10 p.m.

The United Nations says a small team from the U.N. and the Red Cross are going to a suburb of Damascus which is being evacuated "to meet with all parties and identify the key issues for the civilians."

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric stressed that the U.N. was not consulted or involved in negotiations of the deal reached between rebel factions and government forces to evacuate Daraya, which has been besieged since November 2012.

But he said "a U.N. humanitarian team is reaching out to all parties, including the local population."

"We are using this lull in the fighting to get in and see what we can do and obviously see for ourselves what the situation is inside the city," Dujarric told reporters Friday at U.N. headquarters in New York.

"We just hope if we are not involved that the international norms and standards are respected," he said.


5:30 p.m.

Turkish officials say Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin have agreed to "speed up" efforts to deliver aid to Aleppo.

Officials from Erdogan's office said the decision was reached during a telephone conversation between the two leaders on Friday.

The officials provided the information on condition of anonymity in line with Turkish government regulations. They did not elaborate on the plans.

On Friday, Erdogan also briefed Putin on the Turkish incursion into Syria launched this week to liberate a key Islamic State stronghold, according to the officials.

The Kremlin said Putin and Erdogan had "a detailed exchange of opinions on the situation in Syria, underlining the importance of joint efforts in fighting terrorism."

--Suzan Fraser in Ankara


5:15 p.m.

Kurdish-led forces in Syria say they have come under artillery shelling from the Turkish military for the second straight day in northern Aleppo, as Ankara continued its campaign to push the group back from its border areas.

Turkey's incursion into Syria this week to capture the town of Jarablus from Islamic State militants was a dramatic escalation of Ankara's role in Syria's war. It was also a reflection of its growing concern of increasing Kurdish clout in Syria and at home. U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters seized the town of Manbij from IS militants earlier this month, raising concerns they will advance toward Jarablus along the border with Turkey.

Sharfan Darwish, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces' local group in Manbij, said artillery shelling on Amarneh village, south of Jarablus, continued Friday. He said another village to the west also came under attack late Wednesday but said it was not clear if it was from Turkish-backed forces or from Islamic State militants.

Turkish officials said artillery shelled Kurdish fighters for allegedly ignoring warnings to retreat from the village, where they had advanced a day earlier.


3:45 p.m.

The United Nations is calling for the protection of people being evacuated from a suburb of Damascus and says their departure must be voluntary.

A statement issued on Friday by office of the U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, says the U.N. was not consulted or involved in the negotiation of the deal reached between rebel factions and government forces in Daraya.

Under the terms of the agreement, some 700 gunmen and 4,000 civilians are to evacuate the ravaged and long-besieged suburb southwest of the Syrian capital.

The statement says "the world is watching." It describes the situation in Daraya as "extremely grave" and said it was "tragic" that repeated appeals to lift the siege of Daraya have never been heeded.


3:30 p.m.

Syrian rebels and civilians have started leaving a ravaged and long-besieged suburb of Damascus as part of a deal struck with the government.

The first bus with rebels and their families emerged from inside Daraya on Friday, surrounded by armed Syrian army troops.

Under the agreement, the rebels will be allowed safe passage to the rebel-held northern province of Idlib, while the civilians will be taken to a shelter south of Daraya.

Daraya's rebels struck the deal late on Thursday, after four years of grueling bombardment and a crippling siege by government forces that left the sprawling suburb southwest of the capital in ruins.


1 p.m.

The Turkish prime minister vows to continue military operations in Syria until there's no "terror" threat to Turkey from the war-torn neighbor.

Friday's remarks by Binali Yildirim follow Turkey's incursion into Syria. Ankara this week sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels retake the Islamic State-held town of Jarablus and contain the expansion of Syria's Kurds in an area bordering Turkey.

Yildirim says the Syrian Kurdish militia's goal is to carve out a separate state — a "dream" he insists "they will never achieve."

He says the Turkish cross-border operation would continue until "we ensure 100 percent our border security and the life and property of our people."

Yildirim says Turkish operations in Syria will continue until IS militants "and other terror entities are cleared from the region."