- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian agency says an estimated 120,000 people are trapped in a northern rural area of Homs, Syria, with no access to new supplies amid blistering airstrikes by government and allied forces.

In a “flash update” on Thursday, OCHA points to reports of acute malnutrition among pregnant women and children as well as deaths from a lack of medical care, and warns that the situation could worsen in the coming weeks if aid or goods aren’t allowed in.

The U.N. agency says humanitarian groups have not been able to deliver aid to Homs since October and are awaiting authorization to send in “lifesaving supplies.”

It said two enclaves north of Homs have faced stricter controls by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and allied forces since last month.

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12:30 p.m.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says he expects a gathering of more than two dozen countries contributing to the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq to endorse a U.S. plan for accelerating the campaign this year.

Speaking to reporters Thursday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Carter said he would lay out details of the campaign plan in an afternoon meeting with allies and non-NATO partners such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

In doing so, he will ask the others to find ways to increase or broaden their contributions - either militarily or in other ways such as financial contributions.

Carter said the U.S. is determined to accelerate the war campaign and recapture as soon as possible the Islamic State’s main strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

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12:30 p.m.

Turkey’s president has renewed a call for the establishment of a secure, no-fly zone in Syria, saying it is the only way to deal with the influx of migrants and refugees.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday also pressed ahead with his verbal attack on the United Nations, which has demanded that it open its border to a new wave of Syrian refugees. Erdogan said the world body should be focusing on ending an “ethnic cleansing” unfolding around the Syrian city of Aleppo instead of making demands on Turkey.

In his address to a business group in Ankara, Erdogan also labeled its ally Washington as “blind” for not recognizing a Syrian Kurdish group which is affiliated with the Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish rebels as a terrorist group.

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12:15 p.m.

A senior Russian diplomat says Moscow opposes plans to establish a “safe zone” along the Turkey-Syria border.

Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said in an interview with the Interfax news agency on Thursday that Moscow opposes “any attempts” by the U.S.-led coalition to deploy troops in Syria’s north without asking the Syrian government or the UN Security Council first. Syromolotov said Russia will consider this as an “act of direct military intervention” if it happens.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled to the border with Turkey following a Syrian government offensive around the rebel-held city of Aleppo backed by Russian airstrikes.

11:45 a.m.

The Russian defense ministry says its airstrikes have hit about 1,900 targets in Syria in the past week.

The defense ministry in a statement on Thursday listed the targets in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Deir ez-Zor, Daraa, Homs, Hasakah and Raqqa.

A Syrian government offensive around the city of Aleppo backed by Russian airstrikes has sent tens of thousands fleeing to the Turkish border. Critics say the offensive has contributed to the collapse of peace talks in Geneva last week.

Moscow on Thursday accused the militants in control of Aleppo of “coercing civilians” to flee to the border in a hope to cross into Turkey with them. The defense ministry rejected accusations of targeting residential areas of Aleppo, arguing that the footage of the aftermath of the airstrikes there that Western media have been broadcasting was filmed long before Russia began carrying out airstrikes in Syria last September.

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10:30 a.m.

The Russian defense ministry has lashed out at the U.S.-led coalition in Syria for refusing to provide intelligence on Islamic State targets there.

Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement on Thursday that Russia has shared its own intelligence with the United States that it has “gratefully taken” but has not reciprocated.

Konashenkov said Russia has repeatedly asked the U.S. and its allies for intelligence in response to the accusations that Russians are targeting the “wrong objects.”

A Syrian government offensive around the city of Aleppo backed by Russian airstrikes has sent tens of thousands fleeing to the Turkish border, putting peace talks in Geneva in jeopardy.

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9:45 a.m.

An opposition activist group and a rebel say Kurdish fighters and their allies have captured a military air base in northern Syria.

Abdul-Jabbar Abu Thabet, a local rebel commander in the Aleppo province, said Thursday that Mannagh air base fell to the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, and their allies after fierce battles.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the offensive came as warplanes believed to be Russian carried out 30 airstrikes in the area. It said the air base and a nearby village, also called Mannagh, fell late Wednesday.

With Syrian troops backed by Russian warplanes waging a major offensive between the northern city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, the Kurds appeared to be exploiting the chaos to expand their nearby enclave, known as Afrin.

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