The Latest: Iran holds funeral for troops killed in Syria

AP News
Posted: Feb 06, 2016 9:02 AM
The Latest: Iran holds funeral for troops killed in Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Latest on the fighting in Syria, where government forces are waging a massive offensive around the northern city of Aleppo, once the country's largest. (all times local):

4 p.m.

Iran has held a funeral for six soldiers, including a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, who were killed while fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces in Syria.

State TV says Gen. Mohsen Ghajarian and five others were killed in northern Syria while battling the Islamic State group and Syrian rebels. A major Syrian government offensive is underway near the northern city of Aleppo.

Iran says it has sent military advisers to help Assad's forces but denies sending any combat troops into Syria. A number of Iranians have been killed in recent months, including several high-ranking commanders.

The Guard's top commander, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, said at the funeral Saturday that Iran has no plans to send combat troops to Syria.

Iran has defended the intervention in Syria, saying it is defending Shiite shrines there. The Assad family hails from Syria's minority Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Iran has been a key ally of Syria's throughout the five-year uprising.

3:15 p.m.

A senior official says Turkey is caring for some 30,000 to 35,000 displaced Syrians on the Syrian side of the border but has no immediate plans to let them in.

Suleyman Tapsiz, the governor of the border province of Kilis, said Saturday that Turkey had the ability to care for the Syrians inside Syria for the time being but had made preparations to allow them entry in the event of an "extraordinary crisis." He did not elaborate.

Thousands of Syrians rushed toward the Turkish border Friday, fleeing fierce government offensives and Russian airstrikes. Turkey kept its Oncupinar border crossing closed for a second day Saturday and aid workers said the refugees were being directed to displaced people's camps nearby.

Tapsiz said another 70,000 Syrians could arrive at the border if the Russian and Syrian strikes don't end.

Turkey is already home to 2.5 million Syrian refugees


2 pm

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem has warned that any foreign ground troops entering his country would "return home in wooden coffins."

Al-Moallem spoke Saturday at his ministry in Damascus, responding to questions by reporters.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia's army spokesman had said his country was willing to send ground troops to Syria as part of a U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State extremists. The group controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Al-Moallem says that any attack on Syrian territory without the consent of his government will be considered an act of aggression and will be dealt with accordingly.

He said conventional wisdom and logic would suggest the idea of Saudi troops in Syria is hard to imagine, but that "with the crazy Saudi leadership nothing is far-fetched."