BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):
Syrian opposition activists say at least 20 civilians have been killed in government bombing of the rebel-held enclave outside Damascus.
The activists say the town of Hamouria, in the southern pocket of eastern Ghouta, was the worst hit, with at least 10 killed there and a rescue center bombed and destroyed.
A doctor in Hamouria says he was overwhelmed and that for four hours, no vehicle was able to move the injured to a medical facility. The doctor spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for his own safety.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Ghouta Media Center say the towns of Arbeen, Jesreen and Saqba were also targeted. Recent government advances have cleaved eastern Ghouta into a northern and southern pocket. The bombing Wednesday focused on the southern pocket
—Sarah El Deeb in Beirut;
Syrian activists and Kurdish militiamen say at least eight Syrian government fighters have been killed in Turkish airstrikes just south of a Kurdish-held town besieged by Turkish forces and their allies.
The Syrian Kurdish militia known as YPG says the troops were killed Wednesday while they were “supporting” the defense of the town of Afrin against advancing Turkish troops. Syria’s government deployed fighters to Afrin last month as part of an agreement with YPG to fend off the Turkish offensive.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a higher death toll, saying 10 were killed.
A Facebook page of the Nubl and Zahraa villages posted photographs of the eight killed fighters, who were from the villages.
There was no comment from the Turkish or Syrian government.
Turkey had warned the Syrian government against coming to the aid of the Kurdish militia which Ankara considers “terrorists” and aligned with Kurdish insurgents inside Turkey.
Residents of a Syrian Kurdish enclave encircled by Turkish troops and activists say the area is facing a bread shortage as the town’s only bakery grapples with increased demand amid the ongoing military offensive.
Azad Mohamed, an Afrin resident, said he waited in line for eight hours to get a few loaves of bread. Some people went back without getting any, he said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Afrin’s only bakery is facing rising demand amid power and fuel shortages. Other bakeries in the town have been bombed in the Turkish offensive that began on Jan. 20. The town, where hundreds of thousands are trapped, already suffers from water shortage.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he hopes Afrin, at the center of the Syrian Kurdish district with the same name, will be totally encircled by the end of the day.
Erdogan commented on Wednesday.
Thousands of people had started to flee Afrin as the Turkish troops got closer, heading toward nearby government-controlled areas. But residents say they have come under fire.
Turkey launched a military offensive into the border enclave on Jan. 20 to drive out Syrian Kurdish forces that it considers to be “terrorists” and an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.
Syria’s President Bashar Assad says his country’s war on terrorism will continue as long as there is “a single terrorist” on Syrian territories.
Assad’s comments were published on the official presidency Telegram channel Wednesday. Assad said the war on terrorism will go side by side with his efforts to stand up to “western scenarios that aim to undermine the country’s unity and sovereignty.”
The Syrian conflict enters its eighth year this week. What started as protests against the Syrian government in March 2011 progressed into an armed conflict that drew regional and international powers as well as foreign militant fighters. The conflict has torn the country apart.
The Syrian government calls all opposition groups “terrorists” and accuses the U.S., European countries, Gulf countries and Turkey of seeking to divide Syria. Russia and Iran have been strong backers of Assad, helping him in his bid to regain control of territories.
Syrian state-run TV is broadcasting footage of patients being evacuated from a besieged region outside the Syrian capital, part of a negotiated deal to allow critical cases out.
Al-Ikhbariya TV showed a dozen eastern Ghouta residents, mostly women and children, exiting Wednesday through a corridor manned by Syrian soldiers. At least two ambulances and a bus brought patients and their families. The broadcaster said 25 people were evacuated.
Mohamed Katoub, a spokesman for the Syrian American Medical Society, which oversees a number of medical facilities in eastern Ghouta, said a list of over 1,000 patients requiring urgent care has been ready for two weeks. But with eastern Ghouta split in two and areas isolated, not all the patients can access the crossing.
Local authorities outside the Syrian capital say government forces have cut off their town from a surrounding rebel-held enclave, isolating 20,000 residents with no access to aid.
A member of the local council of Harasta said Wednesday that residents have been in underground shelters for long periods amid heavy bombardment. He said government forces have seized local cemeteries, forcing residents to bury their dead elsewhere.
He spoke on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns.
Harasta is in eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held region that has been under a crippling siege and daily bombardment for weeks. Opposition activists say more than 1,100 civilians have been killed since the latest offensive began in February.
Government forces have recently split the enclave in two and cut off the towns of Douma and Harasta.