The Latest: Russia says troops have helped Kurds defeat IS
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local):
The Russian military says its special forces have fought alongside Kurdish-led forces to defeat the Islamic State group in eastern Syria.
Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said Thursday that forces have routed IS east of the Euphrates River and re-established control over Syria’s border with Iraq.
The statement marked the first official confirmation that Russian ground troops have fought alongside the Kurds in eastern Syria, marking a new degree of cohesion.
Rudskoi said Russian military officers had planned the operation and helped coordinate it from joint headquarters established together with the Kurds and local tribes.
He said that Russian warplanes recently have operated at an “unprecedented” pace to support their action, flying over 100 missions a day against IS.
Russia has waged an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces since September 2015.
A top U.N. humanitarian adviser for Syria says 12 people have died awaiting evacuation from government-besieged suburbs of Damascus.
Jan Egeland says they were on a U.N. waiting list first drawn up six months ago for evacuation from the eastern Ghouta suburbs.
Egeland spoke to reporters in Geneva on Thursday, where a delegation of the Syrian opposition is awaiting the government to resume U.N.-brokered talks.
Egeland says the government has refused to approve evacuations on the U.N. list, which has now reached 494 names. He says they are suffering from cancer, kidney failure, severe malnutrition, and other urgent medical conditions.
Conditions are dire in the rebel-held enclave, where some 400,000 people are trapped under the government’s siege.