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More Airstrikes in Syria, One Day After Lengthy US-Russia Talks

By Isabela Cocoli August 27, 2016

At least 15 civilians were reportedly killed in barrel bomb attacks by suspected government helicopters on a rebel-held district of Aleppo Saturday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government aircraft had dropped two explosive-packed barrel bombs minutes apart on the Maadi district of eastern Aleppo.

According to the group, the strikes hit near a tent where people were mourning those killed in a barrel bomb attack Thursday in the neighboring district of Bab al-Nayrab, where 15 people, among them 11 children, lost their lives.

The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, are the only ones operating helicopters over Aleppo, the Observatory said. The government denies it uses barrel bombs.

Also Saturday, Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria said Turkish airstrikes hit their bases near Jarablus, a border town seized by Turkey-backed rebels earlier this week.

The Syrian Observatory confirmed the airstrikes, but Turkey has not yet made any statement about any incursion Saturday. Turkey has said in the past, however, that the Kurds must withdraw to the east of the nearby Euphrates River.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels and their families continued evacuating the long-besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya as part of an agreement reached late Thursday with the government, after four years of airstrikes and a prolonged siege left the suburb in ruins.

US-Russian diplomacy

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a lengthy meeting Friday in Geneva in efforts to restore a truce in Syria

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Kerry said the two sides agreed that there is no military solution to the Syrian civil war, adding the past few weeks of talks have been "fair, diligent and productive." He said the remaining "technical issues" will be worked out in the next few days, to "overcome the deep mistrust on all sides."

Kerry said the situation in the country had "dramatically deteriorated" since the "brief oasis of calm" that followed a cease-fire agreement in February, but promised that the U.S. and Russia are close to a new, more durable agreement.

"The conflict will not end without a political solution," Kerry said. "It is really the only viable path towards peace and security and normalcy that the Syrian people deserve."

Like Kerry, Lavrov promised that just a few details remain before an agreement can be announced, saying "a couple of dots should be placed in correct places."

Lavrov said he believes "everyday dialogue" is key for solving the Syrian problem. He also said he is convinced that the United States and Russia should have normal relations in order to move forward on the Syrian situation.

The conflict in Syria, which is complicated by U.S. and Russian support for opposite sides has killed more than 290,000 people and had forced millions from their homes in more than five years.



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