The Latest: Syrian activists say 16 killed in new airstrikes

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The Latest: Syrian activists say 16 killed in new airstrikes
The Latest: Syrian activists say 16 killed in new airstrikes

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

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, month-long 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.

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 Hazeh in eastern Ghouta, the only remaining rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus, Syria, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says waves of airstrikes hit at least five neighborhoods in the eastern Ghouta suburb. (Ghouta Media Center 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 was dispatched to establish an observation post in northwest Syria, on Monday. (Thiqa News via AP)
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