The Latest: Turkish troops, allies take 4 Syrian villages

36
The Latest: Turkish troops, allies take 4 Syrian villages
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows civilians carrying their belongings as they flee from fighting between Syrian government forces and insurgents through the Wafideen crossing in eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria, Thursday, March 22, 2018. Syrian troops have recently taken control of about 80 percent of eastern Ghouta from rebel forces.(SANA via AP)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on conflict in Syria (all times local):

12:55 p.m.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition fighters have captured four villages south of the town of Afrin in an enclave where Ankara s carrying out a military offensive to rout a Syrian Kurdish militia.

The advance brings Turkish forces closer to areas in northern Syria where Syrian government troops are deployed.

Anadolu Agency said the Turkish and Turkish-backed forces cleared the villages of Baay, Kafer Nabu, Bashufah and Burj Haydar on Thursday as they push toward the southeast of the enclave that is also known as Afrin.

Turkey launched an operation to clear the enclave of Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey considers to be a security threat, on Jan. 20. It captured the town of Afrin in a major phase of the offensive last Sunday.

___

10:20 a.m.

Syrian rescuers and a war monitoring group say 37 people were killed in airstrikes in a town in the eastern Ghouta region near the capital, Damascus, just hours before a cease-fire went into effect after midnight.

The rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, one of at least three operating in the sprawling region, says intense government attacks targeted the area it controls on Thursday.

Rescuers, known as White Helmets, say the casualties were from an airstrike that hit an underground shelter in the town of Arbeen.

Rebel spokesman Wael Oweilan said Friday negotiations with Russia will follow to allow for the evacuation of civilians from the area.

A similar deal with another rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham, led to the evacuation of hundreds of fighters and civilians from Harasta, an eastern Ghouta town.