Airstrikes hit aid convoy in Aleppo province

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the developments in Syria, where a Russia-U.S.-brokered cease-fire, now in its seventh day, is hanging in the balance after numerous violations (all times local):

10:15 p.m.

An official with the Syrian Red Crescent says aid trucks operated by the group and destined for a rebel-held area in Aleppo province has been hit by an airstrike, as warplanes resumed their bombings in Aleppo province.

In this Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 file photo, Turkish army tanks and armored personnel carriers move toward the Syrian border, in Karkamis, Turkey. Last month, Turkey for the first time sent tanks across the border into Syria to help rebels clear territory of IS militants and to contain the  expansion of a Syrian Kurdish militia. (AP Photo/Halit Onur Sandal, File)
In this Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 file photo, Turkish army tanks and armored personnel carriers move toward the Syrian border, in Karkamis, Turkey. Last month, Turkey for the first time sent tanks across the border into Syria to help rebels clear territory of IS militants and to contain the
expansion of a Syrian Kurdish militia. (AP Photo/Halit Onur Sandal, File)

The aid convoy was part of a routine dispatch from government-held Aleppo to rural rebel-held parts of the province. There was no immediate comment from the government.

A U.N. official said the report is still being verified. The official had earlier told The Associated Press there will be no U.N. staff with a planned convoy to the area. It was not clear if they were the same convoys.

Civil Defense volunteer Ibrahim Alhaj said rescue efforts at the scene of the attack continue.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the attack. A volunteer with the Red Crescent says the aid convoy with U.N. participation was hit in Uram al-Kubra. The officials and the volunteer all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

— Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa in Beirut, Albert Aji in Damascus

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10 p.m.

The Russian military says that militants from al-Qaida’s branch in Syria are attacking government positions in Aleppo.

The Russian military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria said the attack late Monday followed a massive rocket and artillery barrage. It said the militants are attacking Syrian army positions near a military academy and living quarters on southwestern outskirts of Aleppo, adding that the Syrian troops are fighting to repel the attack.

The fighting comes as the U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire in Syria was left hanging by a thread by escalating violence. Syria’s military declared Monday that the week-long truce was over as the government and opposition traded accusations over mounting violations.

The U.S. said it’s prepared to extend the fractured truce, and Russia, after blaming rebels for the violations, suggested it could still be salvaged.

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9 p.m.

France says the U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire in Syria has proven “particularly weak” and must have the support of the international community if it is to be implemented.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters Monday that the cease-fire is nevertheless a “glimmer of hope” because it’s the only basis for stopping the fighting.

Speaking on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, he called for a “strengthened and renewed dialogue between the United States and Russia,” but said “we can’t limit the dialogue to two countries.”

He stressed that “it’s extremely difficult” to implement such an agreement without international support.

As for the future of Syria’s President Bashar Assad, Ayrault said it’s impossible for him to lead a united Syria in peace, and predicted “chaos” if he remains in power.

— Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations

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8:45 p.m.

The U.S. says it’s prepared to extend Syria’s fractured cease-fire despite numerous violations and the Syrian military’s announcement that the truce is over.

The State Department said Monday that it was ready to work with Russia to strengthen the terms of the agreement and expand deliveries of humanitarian aid.

Spokesman John Kirby noted the Syrian announcement but stressed that the cease-fire arrangement was agreed by the United States and Russia. He says Russia, which is responsible for ensuring Syria’s compliance, should clarify the Syrian position.

Kirby says that although there were truce violations by all sides, the level of violence overall had been reduced over the past week.

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8:30 p.m.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says the failure of Syrian rebels to adhere to a weeklong truce brokered by Moscow and Washington “threatens the cease-fire and U.S.-Russian agreements.”

The ministry statement was issued Monday, after the Russian military said that continuing rebel violations made it “meaningless” for the Syrian army to respect the deal. The Syrian military said earlier Monday that the cease-fire had expired.

The ministry’s warning appears to signal that rather than declaring the truce dead, the military declarations represented an 11th hour attempt by Moscow to pressure the United States to move quicker on implementing the deal.

The agreement envisages creating a joint U.S.-Russian center that would coordinate strikes against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked militants, but Washington says conditions aren’t ready for that yet.

Both sides are alleged to have repeatedly violated the agreement over the past week, and aid has yet to be delivered to besieged, rebel-held parts of Aleppo — a key opposition demand.

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8:15 p.m.

Syrian activists and residents of the northern city of Aleppo are reporting airstrikes on rebel-held districts hours after the Syrian military declared that a cease-fire had expired.

The activist-operated Aleppo Media Center says suspected government warplanes dropped bombs on a number of rebel-held neighborhoods. Mohammed Khandakani, a resident, says one of the bombs fell near his house in the center of the city.

The cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia went into effect a week ago, but both sides have been accused of violating it on dozens of occasions. Activists and residents also reported airstrikes on rebel-held parts of Aleppo on Sunday.

The military said insurgents had failed to adhere to the agreement.

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6:30 p.m.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has delivered humanitarian aid to the besieged town of Talbiseh in Syria’s central Homs province.

It says a joint convoy of 45 ICRC, Syrian Arab Red Crescent and U.N. trucks delivered nearly 17,000 food parcels as well as 1,000 bulk food rations to the town of 84,000 residents on Monday.

Talbiseh is besieged by government forces. A humanitarian convoy last reached the town in July, the ICRC said.

The ICRC says it also delivered materials to repair the town’s water network as well as hygiene products.

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6:20 p.m.

Syria’s military command has declared the U.S-Russian brokered cease-fire over, blaming the country’s rebel groups for undermining the agreement.

In a statement Monday, the Syrian military said that “armed terrorist groups” repeatedly violated the cease-fire which came into effect last week. It said the armed groups also took advantage of the truce to mobilize and arm themselves while attacking government-held areas. The statement said the rebels wasted a “real chance” to stop the bloodshed.

Activists and rebel groups also accuse the government of violating the cease-fire. The U.N. said the Syrian government has obstructed the delivery of aid, a key component of the deal.

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5:40 p.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry says the week-old truce in Syria brokered by the U.S. and Russia is “holding but fragile” despite persistent violence and a lack of aid deliveries to besieged communities.

Speaking Monday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Kerry said some humanitarian assistance is moving but it’s too soon to say if it will meet the requirements of the cease-fire deal. The truce took effect last Monday with the goal of creating a joint U.S.-Russia military facility to coordinate airstrikes on the Islamic State group and an al-Qaida affiliate. That was to be set up after seven days of reduced violence and sustained aid deliveries to Aleppo and other areas.

Although Kerry professed hope, U.S. officials said Monday conditions were still not right to set up the Joint Implementation Center.

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4 p.m.

Syrian state TV is quoting President Bashar Assad as saying that the airstrike of the U.S.-led coalition against his troops was meant to support the Islamic State group.

Assad described the attack that killed dozens of Syrian soldiers in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour as a “blatant American aggression.”

Assad made his comments Monday during a meeting with Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hossein Jaberi Ansari.

Ansari said Tehran will “give all possible support” to Syria in its war against terrorism.

Iran is one of Assad’s strongest supporters.

The U.S. military said after Saturday’s airstrike that it may have unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against IS. Britain, Denmark and Australia have since acknowledged that their planes took part in the airstrike — which Moscow says killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers.

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3:50 p.m.

The Russian military is warning that for Syrian government forces, observing the U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire has become “meaningless” in view of continuous rebel violations of the truce.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff, says the rebels killed 63 civilians and 153 Syrian soldiers since the truce took effect a week ago. He claimed on Monday that the Syrian government forces have observed the truce unilaterally, despite the continuing rebel violations.

The Syrian government forces have in fact also repeatedly been accused of violating the truce.

Rudskoi accused Washington of failing to fulfill its obligations under the truce deal — most importantly to separate the U.S.-backed opposition units from al-Qaida’s branch in Syria. He says that amid the rebel violations, “it has become meaningless for the Syrian government forces to unilaterally observe the cease-fire.”

He didn’t explain whether this means Moscow is opting out of the cease-fire and giving the Syrian government the free hand to freely use force again.

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3:05 p.m.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed that it participated in a coalition airstrike over the weekend that killed dozens of Syrian troops — even as it stressed it would never intentionally target Syria military units.

The U.S. military has said it may have unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against the Islamic State group on Saturday.

The strike has threatened an already fragile U.S.- and Russia-brokered cease-fire that has largely held despite dozens of alleged violations on both sides.

MOD says it can “confirm that the UK participated in the recent coalition airstrike in Syria, south of Deir el-Zour on Saturday, and we are fully cooperating with the coalition investigation.”

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2:45 p.m.

Syrian state TV is reporting that government warplanes are attacking positions of the Islamic State group in eastern Deir el-Zour province.

The station says Monday’s airstrikes targeted IS positions in areas such as the Tharda Mountain, overlooking the airport of the city of Deir el-Zour.

The areas hit are close to Syrian army positions that were targeted on Sunday by the U.S.-led coalition. Australian and Danish warplanes were involved in that attack on Syrian army positions.

Russia’s military has said that it was told by the Syrian army that at least 62 Syrian soldiers were killed in the Deir el-Zour air raid and more than 100 wounded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a different death toll, saying 90 troops were killed in the strikes.

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1:45 p.m.

A Syrian activist group says 92 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire a week ago.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that 29 children and teenagers are among those killed, as well as 17 women. The figure does not include dozens of Syrian soldiers and Islamic State militants killed in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

The truce excludes IS and al-Qaida-linked militants.

Uncertainties are prevailing about the truce, which is now in its seventh day.

The Syrian army said in a statement last week that the cease-fire would last until midnight Sunday but it’s not clear if the U.S.-Russia-brokered deal set a time limit for the truce. There have been remarks from the Syrian military in Damascus that the truce might be extended by 72 hours.

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11:40 a.m.

Denmark says two of its F-16 fighter jets took part in the U.S.-led air raid that killed dozens of Syrian soldiers over the weekend.

In a Monday statement, the Danish military says it will cooperate fully with the coalition investigation into the airstrikes in eastern Syria on Saturday.

After the incident, the United States said it may have unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against the Islamic State group.

The Danish Armed Forces say it is “regrettable if the coalition mistakenly hit” government forces instead of IS militants.

They say the raid was halted immediately when information came from Russia that the Syrian military had been hit.

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11:35 a.m.

A senior Syrian opposition figure says the U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire that went into effect in Syria a week ago is now “clinically dead.”

George Sabra of the High Negotiations Committee told The Associated Press on Monday that the truce has been repeatedly violated and did not succeed in opening roads for aid to enter besieged rebel-held areas.

Seven days after the cease-fire went into effect, aid convoys have not been able to reach besieged rebel-held neighborhoods of the northern city of Aleppo.

On Monday, the opposition reported 254 violations by government forces and their allies since the truce started on Sept. 12. Syrian state media said there were 32 violations by rebels on Sunday alone.

The Syrian army said in a statement last week that the truce will last until midnight Sunday.

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11:10 a.m.

Turkeys’ president has announced a new push by Turkish forces and Syrian rebels aimed at capturing a town held by the Islamic State group.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the Syrian opposition forces, backed by Turkish troops and tanks, are determined to advance toward al-Bab to clear the region of terror threats.

The Turkish leader said on Monday that the offensive will last until the area “is no longer a threat” to Turkey.

Last month, Turkey for the first time sent tanks across the border into Syria to help rebels clear territory of IS militants and to contain the expansion of a Syrian Kurdish militia.

Erdogan’s announcement comes as a fragile cease-fire, brokered by the United States and Russia and now in its seventh day, has mostly held despite numerous violations.

 

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