The Latest: Australia expresses regret for Syria airstrike
Posted September 18
BEIRUT — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):
Australia's prime minister has expressed regret for any loss of life to Syrian troops in an airstrike that involved Australian planes.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in New York on Sunday that as soon as the coalition commanders were advised by the Russians that Syrian forces were being affected, the operation ended.
Turnbull says Australian rules of engagement were to target the Islamic State movement.
He says he regrets "the loss of life and injury to any Syrian personnel affected."
Defense Minister Marise Payne told Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Monday that Australia is taking part in a U.S. review of the airstrikes against what was believed to be an Islamic State fighting position.
She says Australia would "never intentionally, knowingly target a known Syria military unit. She declined to say whether Australia fighter jets were involved or support aircraft.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Russia needs to stop Syrian President Bashar Assad from bombing the opposition and force him to allow aid into besieged areas.
Moscow and Washington have been trading blame over a fragile Syrian cease-fire that has been violated on numerous occasions since it began last Monday. Russia says the U.S. has failed to rein in the opposition or separate moderate rebels from al-Qaida-linked militants.
Kerry told CNN on Sunday that Assad is a "spoiler" in the process, and called on Russia to "stop the grandstanding, stop the showboating, and get the humanitarian assistance going."
Kerry said it was important to set up a joint coordination center with Russia -- which is part of the cease-fire deal -- to avoid the "terrible thing that happened yesterday, that we all acknowledge and regret but it happens when you have conflict."
He appeared to be referring to a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on Saturday that Syria says killed dozens of its soldiers.
Iran has strongly condemned a U.S. air raid that struck Syrian troops at an eastern base surrounded by the Islamic State group.
Iran's official IRNA news agency on Sunday quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying the move violated Syria's sovereignty and "showed that terrorist groups enjoy U.S. support in Syria."
The U.S. military has said it might have mistakenly struck Syrian troops while carrying out an air raid against IS in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour. Syria and its ally Russia have condemned the strike, saying it killed dozens of Syrian troops and allowed the extremists to briefly advance on army positions.
Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and has sent high-ranking officers and other military forces to bolster his troops.
Russia has accused Syrian insurgents of violating a cease-fire it brokered with Washington after airstrikes were reported on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo.
Moscow laid the blame squarely on the opposition after activists reported the strikes Sunday, the first since the weeklong cease-fire went into effect.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in an emailed statement that both "terrorists and the opposition" are using the truce to "boost their forces and prepare for renewed hostilities."
Konashenkov says Moscow still has not been able to get in touch with the U.S.-backed opposition to coordinate cease-fire efforts despite Washington's assurances. He says the U.S. has not even tried to get the opposition to hold its fire.
Syrian opposition activists are reporting the first airstrikes on rebel-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo since a U.S. and Russian-brokered truce went into effect.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says warplanes fired four missiles on Sunday. The Syrian military had previously said it would adhere to the weeklong cease-fire until midnight Sunday.
The Local Coordination Committees, another monitoring group, says Sunday's air raids targeted three neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo. The LCC and the Observatory say a number of people were wounded in the air raids.
Both sides have reported dozens of violations since the truce went into effect Monday evening.
Russia's Foreign Ministry is sharply criticizing the United States as being obstructive and deceptive regarding the airstrike by coalition warplanes on a Syrian military position that killed more than 60 soldiers.
A ministry statement on Sunday said that in an emergency U.N. Security Council session called following the airstrike, the United States took "an unconstructive and indistinct position."
The Americans "not only turned out to be unable to give an adequate explanation of what happened, but also tried, as is their custom, to turn everything upside down," the statement said.
Syria's state news agency is reporting that troops have regained control of areas they lost to the Islamic State group in the east of the country after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition.
SANA quotes an unnamed military official as saying Sunday that dozens of IS fighters were killed in the offensive under the cover of Syrian airstrikes.
The Syrian military official said government troops had regained control of areas the extremists captured, "as a result of the American aircraft aggression."
The U.S. military said it may have unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against IS on Saturday.
Russia's military said it was told by the Syrian army that at least 62 soldiers were killed in the Deir el-Zour air raid and more than 100 wounded.