Middle East / Politics

The Latest: Western officials to discuss Syria in Berlin

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in the Syrian civil war (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

In this still image taken from video provided by the Syrian government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, damaged buildings inside the Bustan Al-Basha neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016.  The footage shows extensive destruction to buildings in the neighborhood and a factory of hand-made bombs using home gas bottles as shells. (Syrian Central Military Media via AP)

In this still image taken from video provided by the Syrian government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, damaged buildings inside the Bustan Al-Basha neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The footage shows extensive destruction to buildings in the neighborhood and a factory of hand-made bombs using home gas bottles as shells. (Syrian Central Military Media via AP)

Germany is hosting a meeting of senior foreign ministry officials from a group of Western nations in hopes of exploring ways out of the diplomatic impasse surrounding Syria’s civil war.

Ministry political directors from the United States, France, Britain, Italy and the European Union’s diplomatic service are due at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin late Wednesday.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer says the aim is to explore options to improve humanitarian access and get a political process moving again, and to discuss “under what conditions and how we want to continue or resume talks with Russia.”

Schaefer tells reporters in Berlin that the talks are meant as a “brainstorming” session and indicated that no specific results should be expected.

The United States on Monday suspended direct contacts with Russia on halting the war in Syria.

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4:10 p.m.

A group that tracks Syria’s civil war says Syrian and Russian airstrikes are responsible for most of over 450 civilian fatalities it has documented in the contested province of Aleppo in the past weeks.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the death toll is from Sept. 19, when Syrian government forces declared that a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire for the country was over.

The Observatory says in a report released on Wednesday that airstrikes since then have killed 302 civilians in the eastern, rebel-held side of the provincial capital, also called Aleppo. It says 112 civilians died in rebel-held areas in the Aleppo countryside.

Meanwhile, the Observatory says 14 civilians in the eastern part of the city of Aleppo died in shelling by forces loyal to the government. Rebel shelling on Aleppo’s government-controlled areas has killed 27 civilians.

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2:10 p.m.

A Syria monitoring group and a Kurdish news agency say overnight airstrikes, suspected to be Turkish, have hit a village in northern Syria, killing at least 18 civilians.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that at least 19 were killed, including three children, in the attack on the majority Kurdish village of Thulthana, in northern Aleppo province.

The village is in an area controlled by the Islamic State militants.

The Hawar news agency in the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas in Syria said 18 were killed. It says the attack happened around midnight Tuesday.

There was no immediate comment from Ankara.

Turkish military launched an offensive inside Syria in August, backing Syrian rebels, to push Islamic State militants from its borders and curb advances of Syrian Kurdish rebels, which it sees as an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish rebels.

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12:10 p.m.

The U.N. has released satellite images showing most recent destruction of Syria’s embattled northern city of Aleppo. Officials with the U.N.’s satellite imagery program say new pictures from rebel-held parts of Aleppo show “an awful lot of new damage” — presumably by airstrikes.

Lars Bromley of UNOSAT says the commercial images from Digital Globe, obtained by the U.N. agency through an arrangement with the U.S. State Department, show mostly “formerly blasted and blown-up areas” during Syria’s 5-1/2-year war “experiencing a great deal of additional damage.”

He told reporters on Wednesday in Geneva: “To a certain extent you’re looking at rubble being pushed around.”

The images mostly show before-and-after pictures from mid to late September showing destruction of buildings, including homes, after the breakdown of a short-lived U.S. and Russia-brokered cease-fire.

One image, dated Saturday, shows the damage to a school or athletic facility in Aleppo’s Owaija district.

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11 a.m.

Turkish military officials say two Syrian opposition fighters and a Turkish soldier were killed in clashes with Islamic State militants in northern Syria. At least 18 IS fighters were also killed.

The officials said on Wednesday that the two rebels were killed in battles southwest of the town of al-Rai, during which the Turkish backed-opposition forces took control of four residential areas: Turkmen Bari, Kuaybah, Boztepe and Hardanah.

Separately, a Turkish soldier was killed and three others were slightly wounded in fighting in the opposition-held area of Ziyara, which a group of IS militants tried to infiltrate.

The Turkish military officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Turkey sent troops and tanks into Syria in August to help Syrian rebels re-take IS strongholds near the border.

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This story has been corrected to show that a meeting of foreign ministry officials is due to take place in Berlin late Wednesday, not Thursday.
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