The Latest: Death toll from Syria airstrikes rises to 55 - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

The Latest: Death toll from Syria airstrikes rises to 55

(Ghouta Media Center via AP). This photo provided by the Syrian anti-government activist group, Ghouta Media Center, GMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows children receiving treatment at a hospital in Haz... (Ghouta Media Center via AP). This photo provided by the Syrian anti-government activist group, Ghouta Media Center, GMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows children receiving treatment at a hospital in Haz...
(Thiqa News via AP). This frame grab from video provided by the Thiqa News Agency, shows a Turkish military convoy near Tel al-Eiss in the province of Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency says a Turkish military convoy... (Thiqa News via AP). This frame grab from video provided by the Thiqa News Agency, shows a Turkish military convoy near Tel al-Eiss in the province of Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency says a Turkish military convoy...

BEIRUT (AP) - The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Syrian activists and first responders say airstrikes on a besieged rebel-held area near Damascus have killed at least 55 people, updating an earlier toll.

Syrian government and allied Russian forces have been pounding the eastern Ghouta suburbs of the capital for two days.

First responders known as the White Helmets say 55 people were killed Tuesday, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 70.

Russia has waged a punishing aerial campaign against Syria's armed opposition since intervening in the civil war on the side of its ally, President Bashar Assad, in 2015.

Eastern Ghouta, home to about 400,000 people, is also reeling under a government siege that has prevented aid from getting in.

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8:30 p.m.

Syrian activists say airstrikes by Russian and Syrian government forces have killed at least 45 civilians in a besieged area just outside of Damascus.

Tuesday's onslaught came a day after a rash of airstrikes battered Syrian opposition areas, killing more than 28 people around the country and striking at hospitals and residential buildings in the northwestern Idlib province.

Russia has waged a punishing aerial campaign against Syria's armed opposition since intervening in the civil war on the side of its ally, President Bashar Assad, in 2015.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 towns in the eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus were bombed on Tuesday. The activist-run Ghouta Media Center said at least two, Douma and Harasta, was struck by ground-to-ground missiles.

The Observatory said 47 people had been killed, while the Civil Defense, first responders known as the White Helmets, put the death toll at 45.

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6:15 p.m.

Syria's state news agency says at least three people have been killed in shelling from rebel areas on parts of the old city of Damascus, the capital.

The SANA news agency reported the shelling Tuesday also left eight civilians injured. It blamed the attack targeting Bab Touma in the old city on armed groups in a region adjacent to the capital.

The Syrian government has kept up a relentless airstrike and shelling campaign against the rebel-held region, eastern Ghouta, for weeks. It has escalated its attacks in recent days, and activists reported that nearly 40 people were killed in the region Tuesday.

Eastern Ghouta, home to about 400,000 people, is also reeling under a siege that has prevented aid from getting in and medical evacuations.

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6 p.m.

Syrian rescuers and activists say the death toll from airstrikes and shelling by government and Russian forces of an opposition-held area near Damascus has climbed to at least 38.

Rescue workers are scrambling to keep up with the onslaught as artillery and airstrikes pound eastern Ghouta for a second straight day on Tuesday. The Syrian Civil Defense, known also as the White Helmets, recorded at least 38 killed in 8 towns in the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 47 were killed in 10 towns, including 10 children. The tally is likely to rise as the attacks continue.

The Observatory says Tuesday's death toll is the highest in the last 45 days. Nearly 200 people have been wounded in the strikes.

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4:55 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the United Sates to withdraw its troops from the Syrian town of Manbij, renewing a threat to expand its military operation in Syria to the region that is held by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Addressing legislators from his ruling party on Tuesday, Erdogan said Manbij was a predominantly Arab town and that Turkey would return the territory to its "real owners."

Turkey launched a cross-border offensive into the northwestern enclave of Afrin to drive out Syrian Kurdish militia and has also vowed to clear Manbij of the Kurdish fighters, which make up the backbone of a force that fought the Islamic State group in Syria. The United States has a military presence in Manbij.

Ties between Turkey and the United States are tense over the group which Turkey regards as a national security threat because of its links to outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

"Why are you staying there (in Manbij)? Leave," Erdogan said. "We will come to return the lands to their real owners."

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4:25 p.m.

A Turkish official says U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to visit Turkey next week, amid growing tensions between the two NATO allies over Syria.

Turkey's military has launched a military offensive to drive Syrian Kurdish militia out of the enclave of Afrin and has threatened to extend its operation farther east into the region of Manbij, where the United States has a military presence.

That threat raises the possibility of a confrontation between the allies, who are already at odds over U.S. backing to Syrian Kurdish fighters. Turkey regards the group as terrorists, while the U.S. considers the group its strongest partner in the fight against State the Islamic group in Syria.

The official would not provide further details on the planned visit. He spoke on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, in line with government rules.

Turkish media reports said meanwhile that U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster would also visit.

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4:15 p.m.

Syrian rescuers and activists say at least three people were killed, including a child, when rockets from a Kurdish enclave hit a camp for displaced people near the Turkish border.

The Syrian Civil Defense says the shelling in Atmeh wounded another 14 people, mostly women and children. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the shells were lobbed from the neighboring Afrin enclave, where Turkish troops are battling Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The Kurdish militia in control of the enclave has put up stiff resistance to the advancing Turkish forces, and has fired rockets at Turkish border towns.

Ahmed al-Hamoud, an activist who arrived in the area after the rockets landed, says the projectiles damaged tents and caused civilians to flee.

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3:30 p.m.

Russian officials say they have repatriated the body of a fighter pilot whose jet was shot down over a rebel-held area in northern Syria.

Roman Filipov, the pilot of the Su-25 jet, died after he engaged in a gun battle with militants on the ground and blew himself up with a hand grenade.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday its military intelligence, with the help of Turkey, has repatriated the pilot's body from Syria's Idlib province and that Filipov would be laid to rest in southern Russia on Thursday.

The Russian military said earlier on Tuesday that they had asked Turkey to help recover the debris of the plane in order to establish the type of weapons that were used to shoot down the jet.

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3:10 p.m.

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of the Kurdish-controlled Syrian enclave under attack from Turkey to protest the offensive, now in its third week.

Rezan Hiddo, a local official, said hundreds of buses carrying Syrians from the country's northeast and some members of the Yazidi minority from Iraq reached Afrin early Tuesday.

He says they came to show support for Afrin and to protest what he said were Turkey's plans to change the demographics of the predominantly Kurdish enclave, replacing the local population with Arab and Islamist loyalists to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Hiddo says the protesters came from eastern Syria and passed through Syrian government-controlled areas where they were searched to ensure no armed people were among them.

Turkey launched its assault on Afrin on Jan.20. It says it wants to push the Kurdish militia in control of the enclave away from its borders. Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists because of their links to Kurdish insurgents fighting inside Turkey.

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2:15 p.m.

A U.N.-mandated investigator says his team is probing reports that bombs allegedly containing weaponized chlorine have been used on two recent occasions in Syria.

Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, says the commission has received multiple reports, which it is now investigating, of attacks in the town of Saraqeb, in Idlib province, and Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.

In a statement, Pinheiro expressed deep concern over the escalating violence in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta which has killed scores of people and struck at least three hospitals in the past few days.

Pinheiro says: "These reports are extremely troubling, and make a mockery of the so-called "de-escalation zones."

He described the government siege of eastern Ghouta and indiscriminate bombardment as "international crimes."

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1:25 p.m.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani says Turkey's ongoing offensive against the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin does not serve the interests of any country in the region.

The president's website on Tuesday quotes Rouhani as telling his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone conversation that the "tensions in northern Syria do not benefit anybody."

Rouhani says Iran hopes all regional countries would respect the "territorial integrity and sovereignty" of Syria. He also welcomed a new round of presidential-level talks between Iran, Russia and Turkey.

He says: "Like before, cooperation is necessary and should be continued and improved until the final victory of the Syrian people over terrorists."

Iran is a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Tehran acknowledges that its forces are in Syria, in an advisory role to the government.

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12:40 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say at least 16 people have been killed in new airstrikes on the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, a day after Russian and Syrian government forces battered rebel areas across the country in sweeping air raids.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least five towns in the Eastern Ghouta region were hit by Russian or Syrian government airstrikes on Tuesday morning.

The Observatory says 16 people were killed while the activist-run Ghouta Media Center put the toll at 17 dead. Both groups say they expect the death toll to rise.

The airstrikes' campaign that started on Sunday night shows no signs of abating.

The Syrian Civil Defense search-and-rescue group, which works in opposition areas, says it is "another bloody day for civilians" in Eastern Ghouta.

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12:20 p.m.

The Russian military says it has asked Turkey to help recover the debris of the Russian fighter jet that was shot down over a rebel-controlled part of Syria over the weekend.

Al-Qaida-linked militants on Saturday said they downed the Russian Su-25 in the northern Idlib province. Russian officials say the pilot engaged in a gunbattle with militants before blowing himself up with a hand grenade.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday it has asked Turkey to help recover the debris in order to establish the type of weapons the rebels used to shoot down the jet.

The plane was downed by a portable air defense missile, the first time a Russian jet was shot down over Syria since Russia launched its air campaign there in September 2015.

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12:05 p.m.

The United Nations is calling for an immediate, monthlong cease-fire in Syria in order to deliver critical humanitarian aid and medical care to civilians trapped by fighting in regions across the country.

The U.N. mission in Syria warned in a statement on Tuesday of "dire consequences" to the compounded humanitarian crises in the country. It identified seven areas requiring urgent humanitarian relief. It says it's blocked from reaching them due to fighting and forces manning the front lines.

Syria's multi-sided war has drawn in armies and insurgents from around the world, aggravating a conflict which began as an uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule.

Though Assad appears to have survived the insurgency, his forces continue to bomb and besiege opposition pockets around the country.

Meanwhile, Turkish operations against Syrian Kurdish forces and U.S. and Russian-backed operations against the Islamic State group have compounded the suffering of Syrians in the country's north and east.

The U.N. says it has a plan to reach 700,000 people with relief in the next two months, if it can get the permission to proceed.

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11:05 a.m.

A Syrian search-and-rescue group says at least three people have been killed in new airstrikes on the rebel-held province of Idlib, a day after Russian and Syrian government forces battered rebel areas across the country with sweeping air raids.

The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, says Tuesday's airstrikes targeted the village of Termala in Idlib, the largest rebel stronghold in Syria. The White Helmets says three people died while the Britain-based Syria Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at five.

Intensified airstrikes starting late Sunday and continuing through Monday killed at least 28 people in 24 hours, and damaged at least 2 hospitals in Idlib.

Violence has spiraled since government forces marched into the province in December to retake a key air base they lost control of in 2015. The operation has displaced at least 200,000 people, according to the United Nations. The province is home to about 2.5 million people, with 1 million of them displaced by fighting in other areas.

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9:15 a.m.

Turkey's military says a Turkish soldier was killed in an attack in Syria's Idlib province where the Turkish troops are establishing an observation post.

The military says the soldier was killed late Monday by a mortar-and-rocket attack. Five Turkish soldiers and a civilian military contractor were wounded.

Turkey began deploying forces in an observer role to the rebel-held Idlib in northwestern Syria in October as part of a "de-escalation" agreement with Iran and Russia to stabilize the lines of conflict in the war-torn country.

That deployment is separate from a Turkish military offensive that Ankara launched last month to rout U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters from the northern enclave of Afrin.

Syrian government forces are on the offensive in Idlib, where militants shot down a Russian Su-25 over the weekend.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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