DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Latest on Syria’s civil war (all times local):
The Russian military says it has withdrawn about 30 aircraft from its base in Syria, including all of the Su-25 ground attack planes stationed there.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov gave no details Wednesday about how many aircraft remained, saying only that it was precisely the number necessary for fighting the Islamic State group and the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate known as the Nusra Front.
President Vladimir Putin in March ordered the withdrawal of most of Russia’s forces from Syria, without specifying how many aircraft would be pulled out or how many would remain.
Russia had deployed more than 50 jets and helicopters to its Hemeimeem air base on Syria’s coast. The air campaign, which began Sept. 30, allowed Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army to win back some key ground.
A supervisor of U.N. aid says a surge in fighting in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, “is creating new areas with endless suffering” that aid providers can’t reach.
Jan Egeland, who leads a task force on humanitarian aid in Syria, said in Geneva on Wednesday that there were “new possible besieged areas,” and that hundreds of relief workers could not operate in the northern city of Aleppo, where “the population is bleeding.”
At the same time, he said aid officials have made “real progress” in reaching besieged areas specified at a meeting in Munich in February that set off a drive for better access.
Egeland said nothing is more important than ending the fighting. He said Russian and U.S. efforts “couldn’t be more important but we don’t need declarations, we need … an end to fighting.”
Syrian state media say three people have been killed in renewed rebel shelling of government-held areas in the deeply contested northern city of Aleppo.
State TV says that also on Wednesday, government troops repelled a rebel attack on an Aleppo suburb controlled by the government.
Pro-opposition activists confirmed the report, adding that government forces regained control of a former mall that had become a new front line with rebel fighters in the western part of the city.
Aleppo, Syria’s former commercial center and its largest city, has been at the center of the conflict for the past two weeks, shattering a limited cease-fire that began in late February.
Diplomatic efforts are underway to stop the escalating violence that has killed nearly 300 people there since April 22.