BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Syria (all times local):
A Syrian official says that a northeastern neighborhood of the capital Damascus is now completely under government control after carrying out the second and last phase of a truce agreement in the area.
Hundreds of rebels and their families left Qaboun on Sunday and Monday, headed toward rebel-held areas, bringing all parts of the capital under the control of President Bashar Assad’s forces for the first time since 2012.
The evacuations came a day after government forces and their allies captured most of the area from insurgents who had maintained a presence in the northeastern neighborhood for four years.
State-run news agency SANA quoted Damascus governor Beshr al-Sabban saying Monday that military units were combing the neighborhood to dismantle explosives and mines.
Syrian activists say airstrikes on a town held by the Islamic State group near the Iraqi border have killed at least 20 civilians.
It isn’t clear who is behind the raid on Boukamal but various activist groups blame the U.S.-led coalition, which is waging war on IS. The claims could not be independently verified.
Omar Abo Laila of the activist-run Deir Ezzor 24 says 15 homes in the town were destroyed in the raid on Monday. He says the victims were displaced civilians from Iraq and Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says the civilian death toll is at 23 at the moment but that it is likely to rise.
Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman says IS fighters were also killed.
The U.N. envoy for Syria says a government delegation attending peace talks in Geneva is “here to work,” sidestepping comments by President Bashar Assad that the U.N.-mediated peace talks are just for show.
Staffan de Mistura spoke to reporters a day before Tuesday’s start to what’s expected to be about four days of indirect talks between government and opposition envoys, marking the sixth round that he has mediated since early last year.
The envoy said he wouldn’t comment on Assad’s remarks, aired by Belarus ONT television on Thursday. The Syrian leader said “nothing substantial” would come from the talks and that they were “merely a meeting for the media.”
The delegations aren’t expected to meet face-to-face, and de Mistura has called for reduced media involvement to foster a more “businesslike” atmosphere.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is not planning to arm Syrian Kurds fighting the Islamic State group.
Russia has been waging an air campaign to support President Bashar Assad’s forces against both IS and Syrian rebels since 2015. The United States has been providing air cover for Syrian Kurdish forces, which have driven IS from much of northern Syria.
Putin on Monday lauded the Kurdish fighters as “one of the most efficient units” against IS and said Russia has “working contacts” with them.
Turkey views the main Syrian Kurdish militia as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish rebels who have waged a decades-old insurgency against Ankara. A recent U.S. decision to provide heavier arms to the Kurds has angered Turkey, a NATO ally.
Putin insisted in televised comments that Moscow would not arm the Kurds because “they have other sources of obtaining the weapons.”
Syrian activists say an airstrike on a village held by the Islamic State group in northern Syria has killed several civilians.
It isn’t clear who is behind the airstrike but various activists groups reported different casualty tolls, saying the U.S.-led coalition, which is waging war on IS, was likely behind the attacks.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says the strike hit the village of Akayrshi on Sunday night and that 12 women were killed. The activist-run Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently says the strike hit a convoy of farm workers and that 22 died.
The village is about 16 kilometers, or 10 miles, from Raqqa, IS’s de facto capital.
U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian forces are advancing toward Raqqa after capturing several nearby towns and villages recently.
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