- Associated Press - Sunday, January 7, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) - The latest on developments in Syria’s civil war (all times local):

11:45 p.m.

Syrian TV says government forces have reached troops trapped for more than a week by rebels surrounding a military base outside Damascus.

The state-affiliated al-Ikhbariya TV station says the Syrian army broke through rebel lines Sunday to reach soldiers trapped at the Murakabat vehicle base near Harasta, in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also reported the breakthrough.

Rebels surrounded the base eight days ago, trapping an unknown number of soldiers inside. Rebels say they have taken numerous soldiers hostage. According to the Observatory, 159 rebels and government soldier have been killed in fighting over the base since Dec. 29.

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8:50 p.m.

Syrian activists and a war monitoring group say that at least 18 people have been killed in a car bomb blast in the country’s largest rebel-held city of Idlib.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a car bomb was detonated on Sunday evening in Idlib, the capital of a province with the same name.

Photos and video from the activist-run Thiqa News Agency and Baladi News Agency show heavy damage along what appears to be a major avenue in the city, with several buildings damaged and vehicles overturned.

First responders, ambulances, fire brigades are seen arriving at the scene.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. The city and the province are controlled by several rebel factions and insurgents vying for dominance, the most powerful being an al-Qaida-linked group.

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3:30 p.m.

Syrian television says the country’s military has recaptured a strategically important town in the northwestern province of Idlib in its latest advance into rebel-held territory this year.

The state-affiliated Al-Ikhbariya TV says government forces took Sinjar on Sunday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says the gain “opens the road” for the government troops to march on the rebel-held Abu Zuhour air base about 19 kilometers, or 12 miles, to the north.

The military has assigned one of its top commanders to lead the offensive into Idlib, the last major stronghold for rebels in northern Syria. The U.N. says more than 2.5 million people are currently living in Idlib, including more than 1 million displaced by fighting from other parts the Syria.


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