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The Latest: Syria accuses alliance of striking hospital

February 16, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — The latest on the civil war in Syria (all times local):


11:57 p.m.

Syria’s United Nations ambassador says his government has “credible information” that the U.S.-led alliance struck a hospital in northern Syria run by Doctors Without Borders and is accusing the medical aid organization of being a branch of French intelligence.

Bashar Ja’afari accused the U.S. and its allies of triggering a hostile media campaign blaming Syria and its ally Russia for the “criminal act against a hospital.”

The doctors group, known as MSF, said Tuesday that at least 11 people were killed in Monday’s attack, and two remain missing.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Tuesday it was not a U.S. attack.

Ja’afari told reporters Tuesday at U.N. headquarters that the hospital was installed without prior consultation with the Syrian government.

Therefore, he said, MSF must “assume the full consequences of their act because ... they did not operate with the Syrian government permission,” he said.


10:35 p.m.

The United Nations Security Council is expressing its “concern” at Turkey’s attacks in northern Syria, where a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia is fighting Syrian rebels.

Venezuela’s U.N. Ambassador Rafael Ramirez, the current council president, told reporters that “all members of the Security Council are agreed to asking for the Turkish to comply with international law.”

Syria sent two letters to the council protesting Turkey’s cross-border shelling and close ally Russia asked for a closed briefing.

Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov called on council members with close ties to Turkey to tell Ankara to “stop your inappropriate behavior in Syria.”

The Kurdish militia has been most effective in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, but Ankara appears increasingly uneasy over the group’s recent gains in the country’s north near its border.


7:10 p.m.

The Dutch defense ministry says its F-16 fighter jets have joined airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Syria.

In a brief statement outlining military operations carried out last week by Dutch forces, the ministry said Tuesday that the planes flew around 10 missions over Iraq and eastern Syria.

It said the jets “used weapons against combat positions, military hardware and strategic targets” of IS. It gave no other details.

The Dutch government announced late last month that it planned to join the U.S.-led coalition targeting IS in Syria with airstrikes. The Dutch already were flying missions over Iraq.


6:45 p.m.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura says Syria’s government has a duty to allow the U.N. to deliver humanitarian aid to whoever needs it, and “tomorrow we test this.”

He did not elaborate. But the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV, a pro-Syrian government outlet, reported that the government has agreed to allow aid into the rebel-held towns of Zabadani and Moadamiyeh.

De Mistura spoke to reporters Tuesday in Damascus after meeting with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem about aid deliveries and resuming peace talks in Geneva.

De Mistura says the two discussed the “priority issue for us at the moment, which is the issue of humanitarian access to besieged areas.”


11:55 p.m.

France’s new foreign minister has issued a statement in which he has “firmly” condemned the bombing of a hospital in northern Syria run by Doctors Without Borders.

Jean-Marc Ayrault said Monday that attacks like these, in which six patients and a hospital employee were killed, are “unacceptable and must stop immediately.”

He said that they “could constitute war crimes.” Ayrault, who was given the post of foreign minister last week following the departure of Laurent Fabius, said that countries should work to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian assistance in all troubled areas of Syria.


11:30 p.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is warning Turkey and Saudi Arabia that any ground incursion into Syria will have “global repercussions” and says sending in troops will not be a “picnic.”

Commenting on the agreement reached last week among the U.S., Russia and other world powers for a temporary cessation of hostilities in Syria, Assad said, “Cease-fires occur between armies and states, but never between a state and terrorists.”

“They say that they want a cease-fire within a week. All right, who will talk to a terrorist organization if it refuses to cease fire? Who will punish it?′ he asked.

Assad spoke in Damascus late Monday during a meeting with members of the Bar Association. The comments were his first since the agreement on Friday to bring about a temporary pause in fighting within a week.


9:30 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel backs the idea of no-fly zones in Syria to protect civilians who would otherwise flee the country.

Merkel said in an interview published Monday that it would be “helpful” if there were areas where no side would carry out aerial bombardments — “a kind of no-fly zone.”

In an interview with daily Stuttgarter Zeitung, Merkel said there is no way to negotiate with the Islamic State group but “it would be helpful if such an agreement could be reached between the anti-Assad coalition and Assad supporters.”

Russia has flown airstrikes in support of the Syrian government while an international coalition that includes Germany has bombed IS positions in Syria.

Merkel also dismissed the idea of a border fence between Greece and Macedonia to halt refugees.


9:00 p.m.

Iran’s foreign minister says there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday that “there has to be a general recognition by all participants that there is no military solution. I do not believe that that understanding has sunk in.”

Speaking after talks in Brussels with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, Zarif said that international powers agreed over the weekend to “a cessation of hostilities, not a pause.”

He warned that countries “cannot use diplomacy in order to provide a human shield for” extremists like the Islamic State group and Al Nusra Front in Syria.


8:30 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says close to 50 civilians have been killed and many more wounded in missile attacks on at least five medical facilities and two schools in northern Syria.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday that victims of the attacks included children.

He quotes the secretary-general as calling the attacks “blatant violations of international laws” that “are further degrading an already devastated health care system and preventing access to education in Syria.”

Haq quoted Ban as saying the attacks “cast a shadow on commitments” made by nations seeking to end the Syrian conflict at a conference in Munich on Feb. 11, which included a cessation of hostilities within a week and an end to attacks on civilians.


8:20 p.m.

The European Union’s top diplomat has condemned a deadly attack on a clinic in northern Syria run by the medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Monday that the attack “is completely unacceptable,” but said nothing about who was responsible.

The organization, also known by its French acronym MSF, said the airstrike had killed seven people and that another eight are presumed dead.

Speaking after chairing talks between EU foreign ministers, Mogherini said they underlined that all hostilities must end, apart from specific action targeting the Islamic State group and Al Nusra Front.


8 p.m.

The U.N. special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has arrived in the Syrian capital for talks with officials.

De Mistura refused to speak with reporters upon his arrival in Damascus on Monday evening for a one-day visit.

He is expected to meet with officials Tuesday to discuss the latest developments in the war-torn country and his efforts to restart peace talks in Geneva by the end of the month.

Indirect peace talks between representatives of the government and the opposition collapsed in Geneva after just two days earlier this month, largely because of a major offensive launched by Russian-backed government forces in Aleppo.


7:15 p.m.

The head of the U.N. children’s agency says he is “appalled” at reports of attacks on four medical facilities in Syria — two supported by UNICEF.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said Monday that one facility was a child and maternal hospital where children were reportedly killed and scores evacuated.

He says two strikes took place in the northern city of Azaz and two in the Idlib province, where one hospital was reportedly struck four times.

He says there are also reports that two schools were attacked at Azaz, reportedly killing six children.

Lake says a third of hospitals and a quarter of schools in Syria are no longer functioning.

Aside from diplomatic considerations and obligations under international humanitarian law, Lake said, “let us remember that these victims are children. Children.”


6:15 p.m.

A Turkish official says Ankara received with astonishment Washington calls on Turkey to hold fire against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday called Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to address the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in northern Syria.

During that call, according to a White House transcript, Biden emphasized the need for de-escalation and urged Turkey to cease artillery strikes in the area.

He also said the U.S. was pressuring Syrian Kurdish forces from exploiting circumstances to seize additional territory near the Turkish border.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic told reporters such statements were received “with astonishment” ″because they put U.S. “ally Turkey and a terrorist organization in the same equation.”


5 p.m.

Doctors Without Borders says an attack on a clinic in northern Syria supported by the group has killed seven people and that another eight are presumed dead.

The international medical charity, also known by its French acronym MSF, said in a statement released Monday that the hospital in the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan was hit by four missiles a few minutes apart that destroyed the building.

The group says five patients were killed, as well as a caretaker and a hospital guard. The eight missing are all hospital staff. It says other patients are still missing, but did not have an exact number.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the attack was carried out by Russian warplanes. It says nine people were killed, including a nurse and eight civilians.


2:40 p.m.

Turkey says Kurdish forces have been expelled from areas around the northern Syrian town of Azaz after a weekend of cross-border shelling.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday vowed the “harshest reaction” should the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, advance on Azaz, a town near the border held by Syrian rebels.

Kurdish-led forces had recently gained ground along the border with Turkey at the expense of the rebels, who have been struggling to hold ground amid a massive offensive by Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes.

Davutoglu says “we won’t let Azaz fall,” adding that “the whole world should know this.”

Turkey described its cross-border shelling as a retaliatory measure.

European Union officials are calling on Turkey to halt its military action in Syria in the hope of implementing a plan to cease hostilities.


1:00 p.m.

Opposition activists say a missile has struck a children’s hospital in a north Syrian town, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the missile hit the hospital in the town of Azaz near the Turkish border on Monday, killing 10 and wounding more than 30.

Activist Bahaa al-Halaby who is based in the northern city of Aleppo says it was a ballistic missile.

The Observatory says the dead include three children and a pregnant woman.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive in northern Syria under the cover of Russian airstrikes since Feb. 1.


9:40 a.m.

A spokeswoman for an international aid agency says a makeshift clinic supported by Doctors Without Borders has been destroyed by an airstrike in northern Syria.

Mirella Hodeib says her group, also known by its French acronym MSF, had no immediate word on casualties from Monday’s airstrike in the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian warplanes targeted the makeshift hospital, destroying it and killing and wounding dozens.

An aid official says at least one patient died and nine Syrian staffers are missing. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive in northern Syria under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

Update hourly