In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, girls carry the pictures of five Syrian men who were kidnapped four years ago from the historic town of Maaloula near Damascus by al-Qaida-linked militants, during their funeral prayers in Bab Touma, a predominantly Christian quarter of the Syrian capital Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, April 25, 2017. The remains of the five Christians were discovered recently by the Lebanese army in a remote area near the Lebanese-Syrian border and handed over to Syrian authorities on Monday. (SANA via AP)

The Latest: Turkey says its border posts hit by Syria fire

April 26, 2017 - 8:42 am

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

3:45 p.m.

Turkey's military says two of its military border outposts were attacked with mortar fire from Syria but there were no casualties.

The military says it immediately retaliated to the attacks on the posts in the town of Hassa, in Hatay province, on Wednesday.

It says the first outpost was attack from Syria's Afrin region, an area controlled by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Turkey considers to be terrorists because of alleged links to Turkey's outlawed Kurdish rebels.

The military says the second attack came three hours later and originated from an area under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.

The attacks came a day after Turkey conducted air strikes on Kurdish rebel positions in Syria and Iraq. At least 20 Syrian Kurdish fighters were killed.


2:20 p.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has dismissed claims that international experts cannot visit the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria because of security precautions.

Lavrov on Wednesday lashed out at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for failing to go and examine the site of the April deadly attack in in northern Syria.

Lavrov says claims that the experts were warned by a U.N. body against traveling there because it's unsafe are "lies," adding that Moscow went back to the U.N. and found out that there was no such warning.

Lavrov also said the Syrian government had offered security assurances for any experts who would like to visit. He spoke at a joint news conference in Moscow with the visiting Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.

The Saudi envoy also supported the idea of an international probe but said his country still believes the Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was behind the attack.


1:20 p.m.

U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces say they want the international coalition to provide air cover over northern Syria, to protect them from Turkish and Syrian government air raids.

Ilham Ahmad, the co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council which also includes representatives of Arab factions in northern Syria, said on Wednesday that their local commanders have asked the United States to bar Turkish and Syrian jets from flying over Rojava, the predominantly Kurdish-area in northern Syria that is under the Kurds' autonomous rule.

The SDC is the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S.'s main partner in the struggle to defeat the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

Turkey says one of the Kurdish groups represented in the SDF is an extension of an outlawed insurgent Kurdish group within its own borders.

Turkish air strikes killed 20 Syrian Kurdish fighters affiliated with SDF in airstrikes that Ankara conducted early on Tuesday morning on Kurdish rebel positions in Syria and Iraq.


12:15 p.m.

The Kremlin says a new French government report that blames the Syrian government for a deadly chemical attack earlier this month is not enough to prove who was behind it.

France's foreign minister said on Wednesday that chemical analysis of samples taken from the attack shows that the nerve agent used "bears the signature" of President Bashar Assad's government.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia's position on the attack is "unchanged" and that "that the only way to establish the truth about what happened near Idlib is an impartial international investigation."

Russia has previously urged for an international probe, and Peskov expressed regret that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has turned down the Syrian government's offers to visit the site of the attack and investigate.


11:50 a.m.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is marking its 20th anniversary at a ceremony that comes just three weeks after dozens of people were killed in a suspected nerve gas attack in Syria.

While the Nobel Peace Prize-winning global chemical weapons watchdog is widely seen as a disarmament success story, Wednesday's ceremony at the historic Knights Hall in The Hague comes against a backdrop of repeated uses in recent years of chemicals in Syria's grinding civil war.

The OPCW is responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on April 29, 1997, and has 192 member states, including Syria. Since its inception, the organization has overseen the destruction of some 95 percent of the world's declared stocks of chemical weapons.


11:35 a.m.

France's foreign minister says chemical analysis of samples taken from a deadly sarin gas attack in Syria shows that the nerve agent used "bears the signature" of President Bashar Assad's regime and shows it was responsible.

Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday that France now knows "from sure sources" that "the manufacturing process of the sarin that was sampled is typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories."

He added that "this method bears the signature of the regime and that is what allows us to establish its responsibility in this attack."


11:10 a.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the airstrike that the United States launched at a Syrian military base earlier this month damages the prospects of a political settlement for the war-torn country.

The airstrike was in response to a chemical weapons attack on April 4 on a northern Syrian town that Washington blamed on the Syrian government.

Lavrov told a security conference on Wednesday the attack as a pretext for a regime change in Syria and said the U.S. response "pushes the prospect for a wide international front on terror even further away."

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said earlier on Wednesday Russia had to boost security measures at its air base in Syria after the airstrike. Russia has provided an air cover for the government's offensive on Islamic State militants.

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