The Latest: France says attacks on hospitals are war crimes

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2016 5:15 PM
The Latest: France says attacks on hospitals are war crimes

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

12:10 a.m.

France's U.N. ambassador says attacks against medical facilities in Syria by the government and its allies "are war crimes."

Francois Delattre strongly condemned renewed airstrikes targeting three hospitals in Syria since Monday and killing more than 30 people in Aleppo, including children.

He told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that the situation in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria is getting worse every day.

"Make no mistake about it," Delattre said. "Bombing Aleppo and its population is not fighting against terrorism, as the regime pretends. ...What the regime and its allies are doing in Aleppo is actually fueling terrorism, it's fueling radicalization."

He urged increased political pressure to send "a clear message to the regime and its allies that they must stop their indiscriminate attacks against Syrian people and be accountable."

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10 p.m.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group says Syrian Kurdish forces are leaving the town of Manbij after training local fighters to defend it.

Air Force Col. John Dorrian said Wednesday that the trainers were in the process of leaving after assisting the Manbij Military Council. Kurdish-led forces drove IS from the town earlier this year.

Turkey, which sent troops into Syria this summer, had threatened to move into Manbij if the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces didn't leave. Turkey views the Kurdish forces as an extension of the insurgency raging in its southeast.

A local Manbij commander, Shervan Darwish, said the last 100 elite fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units left the town Tuesday.

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7:25 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say an airstrike in the northern Aleppo province has killed at least 18 people, including six women.

Activists in Batbo village posted the names of the 18 online after Wednesday's airstrike. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 19 were killed, including seven women and three children, many from the same families.

Russia announced a major offensive in opposition-held areas on Tuesday, and Syrian President Bashar Assad's air force has been pounding Aleppo city. It was unclear who carried out the airstrike in Batbo.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, says the toll is likely to climb.

Ibrahim al-Haj, a member of the Syrian Civil Defense, a group of volunteer first responders, says 22 were killed in the air raid, which struck mud houses in the village. Conflicting accounts of casualties are common in the chaotic aftermath of airstrikes.

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11:40 a.m.

Turkey's president says Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces are facing resistance from Islamic State fighters but are close to taking the Syrian town of al-Bab from the extremists.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan also told reporters Wednesday that U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters — which Turkey views as terrorists because of their affiliation to Kurdish rebels in Turkey — would soon leave the town of Manbij, in keeping with a U.S. promise to Turkey.

Erdogan said the opposition fighters were some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from al-Bab.

"The siege is going according to plan," Erdogan said. "There is a resistance there at the moment but I don't think it will last long."

Ankara sent ground forces into northern Syria in August, vowing to clear the border area of both IS and Syrian Kurdish militias.

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11:15 a.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad says U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could be a "natural ally" to the Damascus government in its grinding civil war.

In an interview published Tuesday with the Portuguese state TV channel, Assad said his government would need to see if the incoming administration is "genuine" about fighting "terrorists" in Syria.

International observers say Syrian and allied Russian forces regularly strike hospitals, schools, and other civilian infrastructure in opposition-held areas, against international law. Assad maintains he is fighting terrorism.

In the run-up to last week's presidential election, Trump said he was ready to work with Assad to fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

More than 300,000 people have been killed in the 5-1/2 year-long Syrian civil war.