The Latest: Assad tells AP: US to blame for truce collapse

AP News
Posted: Sep 22, 2016 8:26 AM
The Latest: Assad tells AP: US to blame for truce collapse

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the war in Syria (all times local):

3:20 p.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad says U.S. airstrikes on Syrian troops in the country's east were "definitely intentional," lasting for an hour, and blamed the U.S. for the collapse of a cease-fire deal brokered with Russia.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Assad said the war, now in its sixth year, is likely to "drag on" because of what he said was continued external support for his opponents.

Assad, in the interview conducted Wednesday, said the U.S. "doesn't have the will" to join Russia in fighting Islamic militants in Syria.

The Syrian president rejected accusations that Syrian or Russian planes struck an aid convoy in Aleppo and denied that his troops were preventing food from entering the rebel-held part of the city


3:15 p.m.

An official says a rocket fired from Syria has struck the Turkish border town of Kilis, wounding at least three people.

The private Dogan news agency says the rocket, believed to have been fired by Islamic State group militants, landed near a market place in Kilis on Thursday.

Resit Polat, a ruling Justice and Development Party legislator for Kilis, says the rocket wounded a Syrian child and two Syrian women.

Rockets fired into Kilis have killed at least 21 residents and wounded scores of others since January. The Turkish military routinely responds to the rockets with artillery fire.

Last month, Turkey sent troops and tanks into northern Syria to clear a border region of IS militants and to curtail the advance of Syrian Kurdish


12:55 p.m.

Buses began evacuating gunmen, wounded residents, and military defectors from the last rebel-held neighborhood in Homs, Syria, as part of an agreement between the government and local rebels to dismantle a blockade that has restricted food and medical supplies to the neighborhood since 2013, an activist group and a regional official said.

Homs governor Talal Barazi said 150 gunmen, some accompanied by their families, are expected to leave the al-Waer neighborhood as part of the settlement. The first buses carrying the evacuees moved midday, transferring them to a rebel-held area in the northern Homs countryside.

Homs is Syria's third largest city.

The U.N. is not taking part in the evacuation, Barazi says, saying it's position was "unconstructive and surprising." The U.N. was criticized for facilitating a similar evacuation from Homs' Old City in 2014. The opposition and other observers said the deal was tantamount to forced displacement.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says it expects 350 residents to evacuate Thursday. As part of the agreement, the government is expected to loosen its blockade on the neighborhood, offer an amnesty for residents who rebelled, and ultimately reassume control of the area.

Local media activist Beibars al-Talawi told the AP by phone that the evacuees, including those leaving for medical treatment, would not be allowed to return.


12:05 p.m.

A senior Russian diplomat says Moscow views a cease-fire in Syria as the best option possible.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says Thursday, according to Russian news agencies, that Moscow sees no alternative to the U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire in Syria. The truce declared Sept. 12 has been on the verge of collapse amid fighting around Aleppo and an attack on a humanitarian convoy.

The Left-wing Paradise of San Francisco
Rachel Alexander

Ryabkov said the deal was the best possible option amid sharp disagreements over Syria, adding that Russian and U.S. diplomats need to "calmly sit down and think what needs to be done to keep the agreement afloat."

He added that the rebels have sabotaged the agreement and noted that Washington has failed to meet its pledge to encourage moderate rebels to disengage themselves from terrorist groups.


10 a.m.

The United States and Russia are taking their differences over the conflict in Syria to new heights, after trading ferocious allegations of duplicity and malfeasance at the United Nations Security Council in New York.

After a fractious meeting of the council on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were set to duel again over Syria at a gathering of the roughly 20 nations that have an interest in Syria.

Thursday's meeting of the International Syria Support Group comes after the two men blamed each other for spoiling the country's cease-fire that they had agreed to earlier this month. Each has blamed the other for violations.

Kerry called for all warplanes to halt flights over aid routes, while Lavrov suggested a possible three-day pause in fighting to get the truce back on track.