The Latest: 7 killed in shelling of Syrian government areas

In this photo taken Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaks to a ruling party member outside the parliament in Ankara, Turkey. Cavusoglu says his country considers warnings by France against invading a northern Syrian enclave an "insult." Cavusoglu also said Thursday France was in no position to "teach a lesson" to Turkey over its cross-border offensive in Syria, saying Paris had a bad track record with interventions in Algeria and other parts of Africa. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Syria's state news agency says at least seven killed and 10 injured in barrage of rockets that fell on government-controlled areas in and near the capital Damascus

ANKARA, Turkey — The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):


Syria's state news agency says at least seven people have been killed and 10 injured in a barrage of rockets that fell on government-controlled areas in and near the capital Damascus.

SANA said the 13 missiles fell on Ash alwarwar neighborhood, north of Damascus, killing at least six civilians and wounding nine. The agency said other missiles fell on Mezzeh neighborhood, killing one woman and injuring a child.

The capital Damascus has seen a spike in missile attacks in recent weeks from rebel-held suburbs near it. The increased attacks come as government forces have intensified their campaign to regain control of those areas. The rebel-held eastern Ghouta, which is under a tightening government siege, is home to 400,000 people who are under a constant barrage of airstrikes and artillery.


8:10 p.m.

A video obtained by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights shows the exposed mutilated upper body of a female Kurdish fighter surrounded by what appears to be Turkey-backed Syrian fighters as they mock her.

The head of the Observatory, Rami Abdurrahman, says Thursday the fighters shared the video with him, gloating about killing the Kurdish fighter during battles in northern Afrin. Afrin, a Kurdish enclave in northwestern Syria, has been under a Turkey-led attack, where it has also mobilized thousands of Syrian allied fighters for the battle.

Abdurrahman says the fighter was killed on Tuesday in Bulbul district in north Afrin. He condemned the mutilation of the fighter's body, calling it a "crime."

The Kurdish militia has a powerful female unit in a country where women fighters are rare. In an exchange of messages with Abdurrahman, one of the fighters told him "shame on them for sending women to fight."

The gory video shows the bloodied upper body of the woman as one fighter touches her chest. The men were speaking in Arabic.

Details of the incident could not be independently verified. The video has been widely shared on Kurdish Whatsapp groups.


8 p.m.

Turkey's military says Turkish rebels have carried out two separate attacks against Turkish troops in Turkey and northern Iraq, killing at least three soldiers.

The military said rebels belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, attacked Turkish troops stationed in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing two soldiers and wounding two others.

Another soldier was killed in an attack on his base near the town of Cukurca, in Turkey's Hakkari province that borders Iraq, according to the military. Five other soldiers were wounded in that assault.

The attacks on the troops come as the Turkish military is engaged in an offensive against an enclave in northwest Syria to drive out Syrian Kurdish militia force that Turkey considers to be an extension of the PKK.

The PKK, which has been waged a three-decade long insurgency in Turkey, maintains bases in northern Iraq.


6:30 p.m.

Turkish officials say a rocket fired from Syria has hit a restaurant in a Turkish border town, injuring at least five people.

Gov. Mehmet Tekinarslan said the rocket, fired from the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, struck the town of Kilis on Thursday.

Private Dogan news agency video showed a man with a head injury and dressed in a white kitchen staff outfit being escorted into an ambulance.

Kilis and the town of Reyhanli, both of which border Afrin, have been the target of multiple rocket attacks that have killed at least four people, including a teenage girl, and injured dozens of others.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the Turkish artillery responded by attacking militia positions in Afrin.

Turkey launched a cross-border offensive into Afrin on Jan. 20 to clear the enclave of Syrian Kurdish militia which Ankara considers to be "terrorists."


6:10 p.m.

Syria is complaining to the United Nations about the Turkish offensive on a Kurdish enclave in its northwestern region, calling it a "blatant aggression" against it and a violation of the international organization's charter.

In a letter to the U.N. published Thursday, Syria's Foreign Ministry said any foreign troops' presence on its land without its approval is "an aggression and an occupation that will be treated accordingly." It didn't elaborate.

Turkey, together with Syrian allied fighters, launched an assault on Afrin in northwest Syria on Jan. 20, stating it aims to drive the Kurdish militia in charge there away from its borders. Afrin is not under government control, but is led by a Kurdish militia that Turkey accuses of terrorism.

Syria's foreign ministry statement likened the Turkish assault to the U.S.-led coalition operations against Islamic State group militants in Syria. It said the U.N. charter should not be used to justify an attack on another country.


4:15 p.m.

A Syria war monitoring group says government forces have pushed farther into an opposition stronghold in the northwest of the country, in a drive to secure a key highway between the country's two largest cities.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says government forces have moved within 14 kilometers (9 miles) of the town of Saraqeb, in Idlib, the opposition's largest stronghold in the country. The Damascus-Aleppo highway runs just east of the town.

Local media activist Abdulghani Dabaan says pro-government forces are advancing under the cover of heavy airstrikes. The opposition has limited anti-aircraft capabilities.

The advance comes as Syrian rebels aligned with Turkey wage their own campaign against Kurdish militants farther to the north. That campaign, codenamed Operation Olive Branch, has drawn protest from the U.S. and France, who consider the Kurds an ally in the war on the Islamic State group.


3:55 p.m.

A U.N. humanitarian official says booby traps and other explosives left behind by the Islamic State group in the Syrian city of Raqqa have killed or wounded an average of 50 people per week since U.S.-backed fighters expelled the radical group in October.

Jan Egeland says civilians are returning to their homes too quickly, adding: "There are explosives all over civilian areas" in Raqqa.

Egeland spoke Thursday to reporters in Geneva after a regular meeting of world and regional powers in a U.N. humanitarian "task force" for Syria. He also said that aid deliveries to "besieged areas" in Syria have fallen to their lowest level since 2015 — before the task force was created — with no access to them at all for the last two months.

He also noted that no medical evacuations from Eastern Ghouta, a large area east of Damascus besieged by government forces, have occurred since late December.

Egeland also cited reports of 15,000 civilians fleeing into the northern town of Afrin, after a Turkish military operation there, as well as reports that local authorities also "have made it hard" for people to flee from the town.


2:30 p.m.

The Syrian opposition's Higher Negotiations Committee says it is ready to back a Russian-brokered constitutional reform initiative for Syria, so long as it's lead by the United Nations.

Nasr al-Hariri, who heads the committee that represents the Syrian opposition in U.N. talks with the government in Geneva, says any constitutional committee must be formed at the U.N., and include representation from his group.

He spoke in Istanbul at a press conference on Thursday, two days after Russia convened its Syria Congress for National Dialogue in Sochi. The HNC boycotted the Congress, saying it would not lead to peace. Russia is a key ally of the Syrian government.

Deciding the committee's makeup could doom the initiative before it even takes wing. Syrian state media, a government mouthpiece, says Damascus will have two-thirds of the representation on the committee.

Hariri said the HNC would not accept having a committee appointed at Sochi.


1 p.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says Turkish troops and allied Syrian forces have cleared Syrian Kurdish fighters out of another village in the Afrin enclave in northern Syria.

Anadolu Agency said the forces took control of the village Ali Kar, in the northern tip of the enclave, on Thursday, without providing details on the battle.

The agency said a total of 27 "locations" in Afrin — 20 villages and seven mountains or hills — have been brought under Turkish control since Jan. 20, when Turkey launched an operation against the Syrian Kurdish People's Defense Units, or YPG.

Turkey considers the YPG an extension of outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey and a threat to its security.


11:45 a.m.

Turkey has fired back after France's president warned it against invading a Kurdish enclave in Syria, calling his remarks an "insult."

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that France was in no position to "teach a lesson" to Turkey over its cross-border offensive, referring to past French military interventions in Algeria and other parts of Africa.

His comments were in response to remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, who warned Turkey against an "invasion operation."

Turkey launched the offensive against the Afrin enclave on Jan. 20 to drive out the Syrian Kurdish People's Defense Units, or YPG, a militia it says is an extension of the outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

Cavusoglu said France understood that Turkey was fighting "terrorists" and did not aim to invade Afrin.

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