The Latest: Damascus suburb evacuation finished


BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest developments in the Syrian civil war (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

Syria state TV is reporting that the evacuation of the Damascus suburb of Daraya following a deal to end a four-year siege and a grueling bombing campaign has been completed.

The declaration Saturday comes only a day after the evacuation of nearly 5,000 residents and fighters from the suburb began. The deal followed an extensive government campaign of aerial bombing and shelling of Daraya, the last bastion against President Bashar Assad in the western Ghouta region, southwest of Damascus.

Some 700 gunmen and 4,000 civilians were evacuated. The gunmen and their families headed to the northern rebel-controlled Idlib province. Other civilians were escorted to shelters in government-controlled suburbs of Damascus.

State TV said Saturday that Daraya was clear of gunmen, and is under the control of the Syrian army. Control of Daraya is a boost to Assad’s forces and increases security to the capital, his seat of power. Meanwhile a bloody battle for the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, is ongoing.

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5:45 p.m.

Syrian rebel-groups backed by Turkey say they are clashing with fighters affiliated with Kurdish forces in northern Syria, in a bid to wrestle control of territory from them south of a town they recently seized from Islamic State militants.

The clashes Saturday highlight concerns that Turkey’s incursion into Syria was likely to raise the potential for an all-out confrontation between the two American allies.

The Turkish-backed Nour el-din el-Zinki rebel group said fighters, backed by Turkish tanks, advanced Saturday on the village of Youssef Beik that lies southwest of Jarablus, seizing it from Kurdish-affiliated forces. The group claimed to have captured two Kurdish fighters.

There was no immediate comment from the Syria Democratic Forces, the U.S.-backed Kurdish-affiliated forces.

Earlier an SDF-affiliated group said Turkish airstrikes targeted its bases and civilian homes south of Jarablus.

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5:15 p.m.

Turkey’s state news agency says the Turkish Military Joint Special Task Forces and coalition airplanes have targeted the bases of suspected “terror groups” south of the Syrian town of Jarablus.

The Saturday statement, citing military sources, comes hours after Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria said Turkish airstrikes had hit their bases near Jarablus, a town seized by Turkey-backed rebels earlier this week. It said the target was an ammunition depot and a command center for “terror groups” but didn’t name the area or the group.

The Jarablus Military Council, supported by the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces, said the airstrikes on their bases in the village of Amarneh marked an “unprecedented and dangerous escalation.”

Turkey sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels capture Jarablus from the Islamic State group, and to contain Kurdish-led forces. Turkey says the Kurds must withdraw to the east of the nearby Euphrates River.

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3:45 p.m.

Syria activists say at least 15 civilians have been killed when suspected government helicopters dropped barrel bombs on a wake for children killed in earlier airstrikes in rebel-held Aleppo.

Hospital officials in rebel-held Aleppo say the death toll from the two barrel bombs dropped Saturday in the Bab al-Nairab neighborhood is likely to rise. Mohammed Khandakani, a hospital volunteer, said one of the injured told him a barrel bomb was dropped as people paid their condolences for children killed Thursday in an airstrike that left 11 children dead in the same neighborhood. Minutes later, Khandakani said another barrel bomb was dropped, injuring an ambulance driver, and hampering rescue efforts.

The Syrian government and its Russian ally are the only ones operating helicopters over Aleppo. The government denies it uses barrel bombs.

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1:15 p.m.

Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria say Turkish airstrikes have hit their bases near Jarablus, a town seized by Turkey-backed rebels earlier this week.

The Jarablus Military Council says the airstrikes Saturday on their bases in Amarneh village marked an “unprecedented and dangerous escalation” and came after Turkish artillery shelled the positions the day before.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the airstrikes. Turkish officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Jarablus Military Council is supported by the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces. Turkey sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels capture Jarablus from the Islamic State group.

The incursion was partly aimed at containing Kurdish-led forces. Turkey says the Kurds must withdraw to the east of the nearby Euphrates River.

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