The Latest: Syria says air defenses confront ‘enemy targets’
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in and related to Syria (all times local):
Syria’s state TV says the country’s air defenses have confronted an aerial “aggression” over the country’s south shooting down several targets.
The TV said among the areas hit was the countryside of Kisweh, home to military bases, just south of Damascus.
It was not clear who was behind the attack but Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes on Syria over the past years.
The attack was the first since Russia announced that it has given Syria the S-300 air defense system.
The delivery of S-300 came after the Sept. 17 downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian forces responding to an Israeli air strike, a friendly fire incident that stoked regional tensions.
The U.N. humanitarian chief is urging the Security Council to approve the “critical” delivery of aid across borders and conflict lines in Syria for another year, but Russia is calling for an “adjustment” to the program.
Mark Lowcock told the council Thursday, in a speech read by acting head of the humanitarian office Reena Ghelani, that nearly 600,000 Syrians received U.N. food aid this month delivered through two crossings from Turkey.
He said some 4.3 million Syrians in need live in areas outside government control and almost 3 million are in areas reached exclusively through cross-border operations.
But Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said “a great deal of uncertainty” remains about cross-border deliveries.
He said there is no “transparency” and deliveries in Syria have “all been left to the whims of certain third parties and certain partners.”
Polyansky said the situation on the ground in Idlib, the last major stronghold of anti-government rebels, “has significantly changed” and this should lead to “a commensurate adjustment of the cross-border mechanisms.”
The U.S. State Department says a recent round of talks in Kazakhstan on trying to end Syria’s civil war has “failed to produce progress.”
Representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran were holding talks with the Syrian government with the goal of forming a committee that would draft the country’s new constitution.
But the State Department said in a statement Thursday that the parties were unable to agree on who would make up the committee.
The statement said that convening the body by the end of the year “is vital to a lasting de-escalation and a political solution to the conflict.”
The agency said the international community must hold Damascus “fully accountable for the lack of progress.”
Syria’s seven-year civil war has killed an estimated 400,000 people since 2011.
Syrian opposition groups say authorities have informed the family of a Syrian-American woman detained two years ago that she died in custody shortly afterward.
The Syrian National Coalition said Thursday that Leila Shuweikani died shortly after being detained in 2016 and that she was tortured.
The Syrian Human Rights Committee said Shuweikani died on Dec. 28, 2016, adding that her family was informed about the death on Monday.
Tens of thousands of Syrians have been detained since the country’s civil war began seven years ago and the opposition says many detainees have died under torture in government detention centers.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said Thursday it has documented 16,065 persons who were killed in government detention centers. It added that tens of thousands of others have died in government prisons.
A U.N. aid official for Syria has criticized the U.S. policy to refuse funding for areas controlled by an al-Qaida affiliate as “wrong,” and says economic sanctions should be “continuously studied and modified” to avoid hurting civilians.
Jan Egeland spoke to reporters as he ended his three-year tenure as the top humanitarian aid official in the U.N Syria envoy’s office, denouncing how the world community has “failed” Syrian civilians.
“All hell was let loose on them and no one was willing and able to shield and protect them.”
Egeland said Thursday he didn’t know whether Western sanctions against Syria should be lifted, but was “glad” that other Western donors didn’t share the U.S. policy of refusing funding for areas controlled by an al-Qaida-linked extremist group long known as Nusra Front.
The U.S. State Department was not immediately able to comment.
U.S. forces have set up an observation point in a Syrian town controlled by its Kurdish-led Syrian allies along the border with Turkey in northeastern Syria, the scene of recent tension.
U.S-led coalition spokesman Sean Ryan said Thursday the forces are securing locations for manned observation posts along the border “to support security and stability” in the area. Ryan said the posts are not permanent structures and aim to keep “all parties focusing” on fighting Islamic State group militants, who still have a stronghold to the south.
Tension spiked along the border in recent weeks after Turkey shelled Kurdish positions in northeastern Syria.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militia an extension of the Kurdish insurgency within Turkey. The U.S-led coalition supports the Kurdish-led forces who retook large areas in eastern Syria from IS.
Syria’s U.N. ambassador says that if Western countries are serious about helping in the return of millions of Syrian refugees to their homeland, they should begin by lifting economic sanctions against the war-torn country.
Bashar Ja’afari spoke on Thursday in the Kazakh capital of Astana where Russia, Turkey and Iran are holding talks with the Syrian government and the opposition. The mediators are speaking separately to the warring sides, which are not meeting face-to-face.
Nearly 6 million Syrians have fled the civil war, now in its eighth year, to neighboring countries and Europe.
Ja’afari says lifting the sanctions imposed on Syria would be “the real test” for the West.
Europe says it will keep its sanctions in place as long as “repression” continues in Syria, extending the measures to 2019.