Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
The Associated Press
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria, where a fragile cease-fire has entered its fifth day. (all times local):
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman says 62 Syrian soldiers have been reported killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on a military base.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov says the airstrike on Saturday took place near the Deir el-Zour airport in eastern Syria and was carried out by two F-16s and two A-10s. He did not identify the planes’ country affiliation, but said they were part of the international coalition.
Konashenkov says Syrian authorities told the Russians that 62 soldiers were killed and more than 100 wounded. He says the planes came from the direction of the border with Iraq.
Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and has been carrying out airstrikes on behalf of his forces since last year.
Russia and the United States brokered a cease-fire in Syria that took effect on Monday and has largely held despite dozens of alleged violations.
Syria’s military says the U.S.-led coalition struck its base in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, allowing the Islamic State group to advance in the fiercely contested area.
There was no immediate comment from Washington. If confirmed, it would be the first time the coalition has targeted Syrian government forces.
In a statement Saturday, the Syrian military says the airstrikes caused casualties and damage to equipment, and enabled an IS advance on the hill overlooking the air base.
The statement calls it a “serious and blatant attack on Syria and its military” and “firm proof of the U.S. support of Daesh and other terrorist groups.” Daesh is an Arabic acronym for IS.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government views all those fighting against it as “terrorists,” and has long accused the U.S. and other rebel supporters of backing extremists.
The Syrian government says insurgents have been firing on routes leading into the northern city of Aleppo, endangering U.N. efforts to deliver aid to besieged, rebel-held neighborhoods.
The Foreign Ministry says Saturday that the government has done all that is necessary to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, a key component of a U.S.-Russian cease-fire that took effect this week.
It says the government has worked to facilitate the entry of aid convoys to Aleppo, but that armed groups have failed to withdraw their forces from the routes they would need to use and are committing “dangerous, provocative acts.”
The U.N. has accused the Syrian government of obstructing aid to the besieged Aleppo. No aid has entered since the cease-fire agreement was reached.
Activists say Syrian government forces have killed five civilians in the latest alleged violations of a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a woman and child were killed Saturday in Talbiseh, in the central Homs province. It says two men were killed outside Damascus and a child was killed in Aleppo province.
The Syrian Civil Defense group in Homs says government artillery caused the deaths in Talbiseh. A video of the rescue mission shows bodies strewn across the ground.
Syria’s state news agency SANA says insurgents have violated the cease-fire 12 times in the last 12 hours.
The fragile truce has largely held since it went into effect Monday, despite alleged violations on both sides.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have spoken by telephone about the fragile cease-fire in Syria and efforts to deliver aid to the northern city of Aleppo.
The Russian Foreign Ministry says Lavrov told Kerry that Russia has coordinated the aid delivery with Syrian government forces and called on Washington to exercise similar influence with Syrian rebels.
Lavrov noted the “refusal by an array of illegal armed groups to join the cease-fire” and Washington’s obligation to “separate units of the moderate opposition from terrorist groupings.”
The cease-fire has largely held since it went into effect on Monday, bringing calm to much of the country despite dozens of alleged violations on both sides.
Israel says its Iron Dome rocket defense system has intercepted a projectile fired from inside Syria into the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights.
The military says the projectile was intercepted Saturday, without elaborating. No injuries or damage were reported.
Iron Dome protects against short-range rockets, and intercepted hundreds of projectiles fired by Palestinians militants during the 2014 Gaza war. Israeli media is reporting that the system intercepted a mortar round on Saturday, and that it’s the first time Iron Dome has been successfully used in the north.
Israel has largely remained on the sidelines of the Syrian war but has carried out reprisals on Syrian positions when errant fire previously landed in Israel.
Russia’s military says Syrian rebels have violated a cease-fire 55 times over the past day, including with strikes on military and civilian targets in the divided northern city of Aleppo.
The Interfax news agency quoted Col. Sergei Kopytsin as saying Saturday that mortar fire and improvised rockets struck Aleppo 26 times. Russian news agencies cited another official, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Savchenko, as saying there had been 55 violations throughout the country.
A tense cease-fire brokered by Moscow and Washington went into effect on Monday. The truce has largely held, despite dozens of alleged violations by both sides.
The cease-fire was supposed to pave the way for aid shipments into besieged rebel-held areas of Aleppo, but convoys have yet to enter.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expressing frustration at Washington’s refusal to publish the Syrian cease-fire deal reached with Russia, but says Moscow won’t unilaterally release it.
“I don’t really understand why we have to keep such an agreement closed,” Putin was quoted as saying Saturday during a trip to Kyrgyzstan.
He suggested Washington’s resistance stems from a hope to retain the combat potential of forces fighting the Syrian government.
“This comes from the problems the U.S. is facing on the Syrian track — they still cannot separate the so-called healthy part of the opposition from the half-criminal and terrorist elements,” he said. “In my opinion, this comes from the desire to keep the combat potential in fighting the legitimate government of Bashar Assad. But this is a very dangerous route.”
Tags: 62 Syrian soldiers killed, Bashar al Assad, Deir el-Zour, humanitarian aid, John Kerry, Lavrov, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, Obama, Putin, Russia, Russian Defense Ministry, Syria, Syrian President Bashar Assad, two F-16s and two A-10s., U.S., U.S.-led coalition airstrike, U.S.-Russian cease-fire