- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

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

9:40 p.m.

The Russian military says the claim of a deadly airstrike on a school in Syria’s rebel-held northern province of Idlib is a sham.

The U.N. children’s agency said Wednesday’s raid left 22 children and six teachers dead in the village of Hass, the deadliest raid on a school in the conflict.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov says Russian warplanes didn’t fly over the area the previous day.

He says a Russian drone flew over the school building on Thursday and found its roof intact and no bomb craters around it.

Konashenkov accused the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, of fabrication.

He says the images that appeared in the media show desks standing intact next to a wall blown out, while an air strike would have caused more extensive damage.


9:20 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for an immediate and impartial investigation of an attack on a school complex in Syria’s Idlib province the day before which left at least 22 children and six teachers dead.

Ban said in a statement on Thursday that he is appalled by the attack that, if deliberate, may amount to a war crime.

Ban says: “If such horrific acts persist despite global outrage, it is largely because their authors, whether in corridors of power or in insurgent redoubts, do not fear justice. They must be proved wrong.”


8:40 p.m.

An Iranian news website says a senior commander from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has been killed in Syria.

Thursday’s report on Mizanonline.ir says Gen. Gholamreza Samei, whose service dates back to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, was killed in Syria on Wednesday. Samei was also formerly posted to a remote area in east of Iran.

The report says he was in an advisory assignment in Syria. It did not elaborate.

Iran is a main ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Tehran has provided his government with military and financial backing for years and has kept up its support since the uprising there began in 2011.


6:45 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin is defending Russia’s support for the Syrian army’s siege of the rebel-held eastern districts of the city of Aleppo, saying it’s necessary to crush the militants there.

Putin spoke on Thursday to international foreign policy experts in Sochi. He says there is choice between “keeping a terrorist nest there or crushing that nest while minimizing civilian casualties.”

Russia’s air campaign in support of the Syrian troops’ offensive on Aleppo has drawn international outrage. Moscow has denied striking civilians and has blamed Washington for failing to persuade the U.S.-backed rebels in the city to cut their ties with fighters from al-Qaida’s branch.

Putin shrugged off the calls to end the onslaught on Aleppo, arguing that the U.S.-backed, Iraqi-led siege of Mosul should also be halted then, and the prospective attack on Raqqa by the U.S.-led coalition should not be launched at all.


5:45 p.m.

Syrian activists and rescue workers say at least eight people have been killed in attacks on a rebel-held suburb of the capital, Damascus.

The Syrian Civil Defense team of first responders says the eight who died in Thursday’s heavy government shelling of Douma, east of Damascus, included a child.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll may increase further as rescue efforts are continuing. The rescuers said their work is hampered by continued shelling.

Syria’s government and their allies have increased their campaign against the steadily shrinking zone of rebel control in Damascus’ suburbs.

U.N. aid official Jan Egeland said on Thursday that the Syrian government denied access for aid in November to another Damascus suburb, the rebel-held al-Nashabiyeh.


4 p.m.

A U.N. humanitarian aid official for Syria says efforts will be renewed to secure the evacuation of nearly 200 wounded and allow medical and food supplies into the besieged rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo.

Jan Egeland says the U.N. team is “not giving up.” He says lack of trust, fear and misunderstandings - as well as unacceptable preconditions - have spoiled the efforts in the past. He spoke on Thursday in Geneva.

Airstrikes by Russian and Syrian government planes on Aleppo have been halted for nine days now in expectations of the evacuations but efforts have failed because Syrian rebels say there have been no safety guarantees for the evacuees.

The rebels also say Russia and the government are not allowing aid into the besieged, eastern rebel-held districts of Aleppo that are home to some 275,000 people.


3:50 p.m.

Turkey’s defense minister has reiterated Ankara’s objections to having Syrian Kurdish fighters’ participate in an operation to capture the Islamic State group stronghold of Raqqa.

The minister, Fikri Isik, suggests that instead of the Kurds, Turkish-backed forces can present an “alternative.”

Isik also said on Thursday that Turkey “would insist until the end” that the Syrian Kurdish fighters known as the YPG be kept out of the battle for Raqqa. Ankara views the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish force, which has battled the IS, as a terror organization and claims it’s linked to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish group.

The United States, however, considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters as the most effective force against the IS and U.S. officials have said the YPG will be part of the offensive.

Isik says that “Turkey has the capacity to form an alternative … a sufficient force will be formed with the people of the region” - especially the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition.

His comments were carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency.


3:45 p.m.

The European Union has added 10 more Syrians to its sanctions’ list, seeking to punish those that have been involved in the attacks on the contested city of Aleppo.

The EU said in a statement on Thursday that the new individuals were listed “for being responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria” or benefiting from links to the Syrian regime.

Last week, EU foreign ministers said that the attacks on Aleppo could amount to war crimes.

Overall, EU sanctions on Syria were extended at the end of May until June 2017. With Thursday’s additions, 217 people and 69 entities, including companies and associations, have been targeted by a travel ban and an asset freeze over the violent repression of civilians.


2:30 p.m.

Turkey’s president is telling his American counterpart that Turkey is ready to kick the Islamic State group out of their capital Raqqa in Syria.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey-backed opposition fighters inside Syria will eventually reach Raqqa after securing the towns of al-Bab and Manbij.

“Last night we had a long conversation with Obama and shared our plans with him . We said, ‘Come let’s kick Daesh out of Raqqa together,’ ” he said referring to the Arabic acronym for the IS group. Erdogan added that he urged that the operation take place without involvement of Syrian Kurdish forces.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militias an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish rebels, though the U.S. regards them as the most effective ground force in the fight against IS.


10:15 a.m.

The U.N. Children’s agency says airstrikes in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province a day earlier may be the deadliest attack on a school since the country’s war began nearly six years ago, leaving 22 children and six of their teachers killed.

A team of first responders, the Syrian Civil Defense, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that the Wednesday airstrikes killed at least 35, mostly children, when they struck in the village of Hass around midday. Initially, the estimated death toll was at 22. The airstrikes hit in a residential area housing a school complex, as children gathered outside.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake called the airstrikes an “outrage.” He added if it is determined that the airstrikes were deliberate, “it is a war crime.”

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