The Latest: UN says Syrian Red Crescent evacuated 39 people
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria’s civil war (all times local):
The United Nations says the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has evacuated up to 39 people who need urgent medical treatment from two Syrian towns under siege.
The office of the U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, says several children were among those evacuated on Friday from the towns of Foua and Madaya.
Rebel-held Madaya near Damascus is under siege by government forces and their allies, and government-held Foua in northern Idlib province, is besieged by opposition fighters.
De Mistura called the evacuations, which are not common from besieged areas in Syria, a “positive step” and thanked “those who made this possible” without specifying.
He regretted that aid convoys have been blocked to a number of places, including Madaya and Foua, for over 110 days amid increased fighting.
Britain’s U.N. ambassador says Russia must follow up its announcement of support for weekly 48-hour cease-fires to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo with action to make this happen.
Matthew Rycroft told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday that Russia’s new position “certainly sounds better than their old position, but the people of Syria have heard a lot of Russian commitments, not all of which have been implemented.”
He expressed hope that aid will get to Aleppo and other areas but “what matters is Russian action, not Russian words.”
Rycroft also expressed concern that Russia and Iran, members of an international group trying to end the Syrian war, “are deliberately prolonging this conflict rather than doing everything they can to end it and get the political transition that is so desperately needed.”
The Russian military says two of its ships have launched cruise missiles at targets in Syria from the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Russia’s Defense Ministry says the Serpukhov and the Zeleny Dol corvettes launched three long-range Kalibr cruise missiles on Friday at Syria’s al-Qaida branch, formerly known as the Nusra Front. The ministry says the missiles destroyed a command facility and a militant camp near the militant-held town of Daret Azzeh, along with a mine-making facility and a weapons facility in the province of Aleppo.
Russian warships in the past have launched cruise missiles at targets in Syria from both the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean, a show of the navy’s long-range precision strike capability.
The cruise missile strikes have added an extra punch to the aerial campaign Russia has conducted since September in support of President Bashar Assad’s military.