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The Latest: Activists say 20 dead in east Syria strikes


September 15, 2017

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local):

8:20 p.m.

Syrian activists say at least 20 civilians have been killed in air and missile strikes across east Syria, where U.S. and Russian-backed forces are racing to take territory from the Islamic State group's shrinking Euphrates river valley domain.

Turkey-based activist Omar Abou Layla says local activists reported "fanatical" levels of strikes on three IS-held towns and villages on the Euphrates River valley on Thursday, including an attack on the national hospital in the IS stronghold of al-Mayadeen. Six civilians were killed. He put the toll at 20 killed across the province. He blamed the strikes on the Russian air force, which is supporting government forces advancing in the region.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 39 people have been killed and over 100 wounded on strikes along the river, including some targeting hospitals and ferry crossings. The monitoring group said the U.S.-led international coalition, which is supporting non-government forces, was partly to blame.

The attacks could not be independently verified.


3:15 p.m.

Russia's military says it fired seven cruise missiles at Islamic State targets in the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour.

The Defense Ministry said the Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from two submarines in the Mediterranean on Thursday.

Russia has provided military backing for Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces since 2015. It has repeatedly fired salvoes of such missiles, from both the sea and mainland Russia.

In this strike, the missiles were aimed at IS command points, communication hubs and arms dumps southeast of the city of Deir el-Zour, where Syrian troops and allied militias are battling the extremists. The ministry said all the targets were destroyed.


10:30 a.m.

A Syria monitoring group says a convoy of Islamic State militants and their relatives transferred from the border with Lebanon has finally crossed into an extremist stronghold in eastern Syria, ending a standoff with the U.S.-led coalition over their evacuation deal.

The convoy had been stuck in the desert following airstrikes by the U.S-led coalition to prevent its advance. The Hezbollah-negotiated deal allowed the evacuation in exchange for locating the remains of Lebanese soldiers and the release of fighters. On Thursday, a captive Hezbollah fighter was released.

The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said buses and vehicles crossed into Deir el-Zour province Wednesday. Last week, the U.S-led coalition said it ended surveillance of the convoy after a Russian request.


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