- Associated Press - Thursday, September 22, 2016

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

6:30 p.m.

Turkish military officials say their warplanes and artillery units have attacked Islamic State group targets in Syria, after rockets fired from across the border injured at least six people in a Turkish border town.

The officials say Turkish Howitzers and multi barrel rocket launchers attacked IS positions in the Tugali, Dabik and Turkmen Bari regions, soon after two rockets struck the town of Kilis, wounding five children and an adult.

In a statement sent to journalists Thursday, the officials say Turkish F-16 jets later attacked more IS group targets near the regions of al-Rai, Ihtimalat and al-Athaniyah, after a third rocket hit the town. They say a number of IS militants were killed in the strikes.

Turkey’s military routinely retaliates to rocket attacks fired from Syrian territory.

The officials provided the information on condition of anonymity, in line with Turkish government regulations.

__Suzan Frazer in Ankara

5:00 p.m.

The State Department’s spokesman has dismissed claims made by Syrian President Bashar Assad during an interview with The Associated Press as “ridiculous,” adding they show that Assad has lost his legitimacy to govern.

In the interview, Assad tells AP that the U.S. deliberately targeted Syrian government soldiers in an airstrike that killed dozens. The U.S. has said the strike was accidental and they had intended to target Islamic State group militants. Assad says the U.S. lacks “the will” to join forces with Russia in fighting extremists.

State Department spokesman John Kirby says “it’s difficult to see how these ridiculous claims deserve a response, except to say they prove yet again the degree to which Assad has lost his legitimacy to govern.”

He says it underlines how vital it is for the international community to “achieve a political solution that gives the Syrian people a voice in their future.”


4:45 p.m.

Syrian state TV says buses have evacuated 261 residents from the last rebel-held neighborhood in Homs, the country’s third largest city.

The broadcaster says evacuations have finished for Thursday. They are part of an agreement between rebels and the authorities to lift a government blockade on the neighborhood that has been enforced since November 2013. Residents agree to allow the government to restore its authority over the neighborhood, under the deal. Gunmen who object to the arrangement have agreed to be evacuated.

An estimated 75,000 residents are still in the neighborhood, with dwindling supplies of food and medicine.

The group that left Al-Waer Thursday contained 103 gunmen and 158 women, children, and older men. They were transferred to the northern Homs countryside, and will be bussed to rebel-held Idlib on Saturday.


4:40 p.m.

Syrian activists say a suicide attack in a southern village has killed several people, including local opposition officials.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the blast in the rebel-held village of Inkhil killed 11 people and wounded dozens.

The Local Coordination Committees and the Observatory say among those killed in Thursday’s blast was Yacoub al-Omar, the minister of local administration.

Ahmad al-Masalmeh, an opposition activist in the southern province of Daraa, says an opposition official who held the title of Daraa governor was also killed.

They say the suicide was wearing an explosives belt which he detonated among the officials.

Such attacks are not uncommon in Syria and opposition officials and rebels have been killed in similar blasts in the past.


3:45 p.m.

A senior official says at least six people were wounded by the rocket that struck the Turkish town of Kilis, on the border with Syria.

Gov. Ismail Catakli told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency that the wounded included five children. One of the wounded was in serious condition.

Earlier, a ruling party legislator had said three Syrians were wounded.


3:30 p.m.

A U.N. official has denied a claim by Syrian President Bashar Assad alleging the United Nations ruled out an airstrike as responsible for an attack on an aid convoy near Aleppo.

Ramzy Ramzy, the top deputy to U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura, said: “We did not say that.”

In an Associated Press interview in Damascus published Thursday and conducted a day earlier, Assad said, “even the United Nations said that there were no airstrikes against that convoy.”

Ramzy told reporters in Geneva that the U.N. was seeking an “independent investigation” into Monday’s attack on a Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy that killed 20 civilians.

The United States said it believes it was carried out by a Russian-piloted aircraft. Russia has denied that its aircraft or Syrian warplanes struck the convoy.


3:20 p.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad says U.S. airstrikes on Syrian troops in the country’s east were “definitely intentional,” lasting for an hour, and blamed the U.S. for the collapse of a cease-fire deal brokered with Russia.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Assad said the war, now in its sixth year, is likely to “drag on” because of what he said was continued external support for his opponents.

Assad, in the interview conducted Wednesday, said the U.S. “doesn’t have the will” to join Russia in fighting Islamic militants in Syria.

The Syrian president rejected accusations that Syrian or Russian planes struck an aid convoy in Aleppo and denied that his troops were preventing food from entering the rebel-held part of the city


3:15 p.m.

An official says a rocket fired from Syria has struck the Turkish border town of Kilis, wounding at least three people.

The private Dogan news agency says the rocket, believed to have been fired by Islamic State group militants, landed near a market place in Kilis on Thursday.

Resit Polat, a ruling Justice and Development Party legislator for Kilis, says the rocket wounded a Syrian child and two Syrian women.

Rockets fired into Kilis have killed at least 21 residents and wounded scores of others since January. The Turkish military routinely responds to the rockets with artillery fire.

Last month, Turkey sent troops and tanks into northern Syria to clear a border region of IS militants and to curtail the advance of Syrian Kurdish


12:55 p.m.

Buses began evacuating gunmen, wounded residents, and military defectors from the last rebel-held neighborhood in Homs, Syria, as part of an agreement between the government and local rebels to dismantle a blockade that has restricted food and medical supplies to the neighborhood since 2013, an activist group and a regional official said.

Homs governor Talal Barazi said 150 gunmen, some accompanied by their families, are expected to leave the al-Waer neighborhood as part of the settlement. The first buses carrying the evacuees moved midday, transferring them to a rebel-held area in the northern Homs countryside.

Homs is Syria’s third largest city.

The U.N. is not taking part in the evacuation, Barazi says, saying it’s position was “unconstructive and surprising.” The U.N. was criticized for facilitating a similar evacuation from Homs’ Old City in 2014. The opposition and other observers said the deal was tantamount to forced displacement.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says it expects 350 residents to evacuate Thursday. As part of the agreement, the government is expected to loosen its blockade on the neighborhood, offer an amnesty for residents who rebelled, and ultimately reassume control of the area.

Local media activist Beibars al-Talawi told the AP by phone that the evacuees, including those leaving for medical treatment, would not be allowed to return.


12:05 p.m.

A senior Russian diplomat says Moscow views a cease-fire in Syria as the best option possible.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says Thursday, according to Russian news agencies, that Moscow sees no alternative to the U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire in Syria. The truce declared Sept. 12 has been on the verge of collapse amid fighting around Aleppo and an attack on a humanitarian convoy.

Ryabkov said the deal was the best possible option amid sharp disagreements over Syria, adding that Russian and U.S. diplomats need to “calmly sit down and think what needs to be done to keep the agreement afloat.”

He added that the rebels have sabotaged the agreement and noted that Washington has failed to meet its pledge to encourage moderate rebels to disengage themselves from terrorist groups.


10 a.m.

The United States and Russia are taking their differences over the conflict in Syria to new heights, after trading ferocious allegations of duplicity and malfeasance at the United Nations Security Council in New York.

After a fractious meeting of the council on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were set to duel again over Syria at a gathering of the roughly 20 nations that have an interest in Syria.

Thursday’s meeting of the International Syria Support Group comes after the two men blamed each other for spoiling the country’s cease-fire that they had agreed to earlier this month. Each has blamed the other for violations.

Kerry called for all warplanes to halt flights over aid routes, while Lavrov suggested a possible three-day pause in fighting to get the truce back on track.

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